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Medicare Open Enrollment Period for 2021


Every year, the Medicare Open Enrollment Period gives beneficiaries an opportunity to make changes to their current Medicare coverage. The OEP for Medicare begins on October 15th and ends on December 7th. Below, we’ll explain what you can and cannot do during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period as well as answer some common questions we get from beneficiaries.

When is Open Enrollment for Medicare?

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period window occurs annually between October 15th and December 7th. If you make changes during this time, Medicare will start on January 1st of the following year.

Why would I make changes to my coverage during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period?

For recipients currently enrolled in an Advantage plan or Part D policy, your benefits, as well as your monthly premiums, can change from year to year. This election period is when you can change your existing coverage if you’re not pleased with those changes.

How will I know if my Medicare benefits are changing next year?

Every year during September, you’ll receive a letter in the mail that contains a document called the Annual Notice of Change. The Annual Notice of Change will inform you if your premium, copays, pharmacy networks, or drug formulary is changing in the upcoming year. 

Who’s eligible to make changes during this open enrollment window?

Anyone enrolled in either Medicare, Medicare Advantage, or Part D. If you have not yet enrolled in Part A or Part B, this is not the enrollment period for you. If your Initial Enrollment Period has passed, you’ll need to wait until the General Enrollment Period to enroll in Medicare.

What Changes Can You Make During the Medicare Open Enrollment Period?

If you’re enrolled in Medicare, you can leave Medicare & switch to Medicare Advantage. If you’re enrolled in an Advantage plan, you can leave the plan and switch back to Medicare. You can also join, leave, or change your stand-alone Part D drug plan. When you switch back to Medicare, you can then choose to enroll in a Medigap plan.

Why would I want to leave or change my Medicare Advantage plan?

  • Unhappy with plan changes documented in the Annual Notice of Change letter
  • Your monthly premium is going to increase
  • Your doctor is no longer within the plan’s network
  • You’re tired of paying copays every time you visit the doctor
  • You need more comprehensive coverage that is attainable through a Medigap plan

Due to the Bipartisan Budget Act, there are new home health benefits that will be added to SOME Medicare Advantage plans. If your current Advantage plan doesn’t include home health benefits, and you feel you would benefit from them, this enrollment window is the time to switch to a plan that provides these new benefits. You can also wait for the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period to make a change as well. Since home health benefits we’re just recently introduced, there may not be an Advantage plan that includes these benefits available in your area yet.

Why would I want to leave or switch my Part D plan?

  • the new plan formulary moved your medications to a different tier
  • the plan is to drop one of your drugs completely
  • your monthly premium increased
  • the policies yearly deductible increased
  • there’s a new plan option with more value

Do I have to answer any health questions if I make changes?

Not if you’re making changes to Part D or Medicare Advantage. If you’re choosing to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan at this time, and are outside your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, you will have to go through medical underwriting and answer some health questions. However, don’t let that concern you, we can help you every step of the way.

Can I make more than one change during this enrollment window?

Yes, you can make multiple changes to your coverage. The last change you made is what will take effect on January 1st. This is not the case for all open enrollment windows. For example, the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period only allows you to make a one-time change.

What happens if I miss the Medicare Open Enrollment Period?

There are multiple enrollment periods when it comes to Medicare. Depending on your current coverage, you may qualify for another enrollment window outside of this one.

Is there an Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Supplement Plans?

When it comes to Medicare Supplements, there is no annual enrollment window. You can enroll in a Medigap plan at any time during the year. Although, Medigap is different in each state. Some states do have open enrollment or birthday rule that allows beneficiaries to change plans during the year without underwriting.

You can apply for a Medigap plan at ANY TIME of the year. But, the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period is the best time to enroll in Medigap. Although, this is a one-time enrollment period, not annual. So, if you miss yours, going through underwriting would likely be necessary.

Difference between Open Enrollment Period and Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period is for current beneficiaries to make changes to their Medicare Advantage and Part D coverage. The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period is ONLY for those who are currently enrolled in Medicare Advantage to make changes.

Difference between the Annual Election Period and the Open Enrollment Period

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period is the same thing as the Open Enrollment Period. The Medicare Open Enrollment Period, depending on the context could also be referring to other enrollment windows.

FAQs

When is the Medicare Open Enrollment Period for 2021?
The Medicare Open Enrollment Period is October 15th-December 7th.
When does Medicare Open Enrollment start?
The Fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period starts on October 15th.
When does Medicare Open Enrollment end?
The Fall Open Enrollment Period ends on December 7th.
Do I have to renew my Medicare benefits each year?
No, your Medicare coverage will automatically renew each year. However, you’ll still want to review your coverage on a year-to-year basis to make sure the coverage still fits your healthcare needs.
If using the OEP to make a change, when is the effective date of the change?
The effective date of the policy will be January 1st of the following year.

How to Get Help During the Fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period

We're here to help you! Whether you're enrolling in Medicare Advantage, Part D, or Medigap, we can compare all your options side by side to see which coverage is best for you.

Our goal at MedicareFAQ is to make sure our clients are always up to date and informed on their Medicare options. Medicare changes annually, monthly, sometimes weekly! It's our job to keep up with all these changes so that our clients always have the most coverage at the most affordable price.

If you run into any obstacles with your coverage, we're by your side to help overcome them. Give us a call today or complete our online rate form now to see what Medicare plans are available in your area now.

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Lindsay Malzone

Lindsay Malzone is the Medicare expert for MedicareFAQ. She has been working in the Medicare industry since 2017. She is featured in many publications as well as writes regularly for other expert columns regarding Medicare. You can also find her over on our Medicare Channel on YouTube as well as contributing to our Medicare Community on Facebook.

2 thoughts on “Medicare Open Enrollment Period for 2021

  1. I am turning 65 in December this year, my husband is still working and I will be covered by his health care. Will I have trouble getting part B or anything supplemental insurances when he actually retires too (he’s think of retiring next year)

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