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Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (Medicare Fall Open Enrollment Period)

Summary: The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) occurs from October 15 to December 7 annually. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan, you can make changes that go into effect next year. You can also sign up for Part D if you haven’t already. Estimated Read Time: 12 mins

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Table of Contents:

  1. What is the Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare?
  2. When is the Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare?
  3. AEP vs OEP
  4. Comparing Prescription Drug Plans During the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period
  5. Comparing Medicare Advantage Plans During the Annual Enrollment Period
  6. Can I Enroll in Original Medicare During the Annual Enrollment Period?
  7. What Changes Can I Make During the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period?
  8. Can I Switch to Medicare Supplement During the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period?
  9. When do Changes Made During the Annual Enrollment Period Go Into Effect?
  10. What Happens if I Do Not Like the Medicare Advantage Plan I Sign Up for During the Annual Enrollment Period?
  11. Should You Change Coverage During the Annual Enrollment Period?
  12. How To Prepare for Medicare Annual Enrollment Period
  13. How Will I Know if My Medicare Benefits Are Changing Next Year?
  14. How to Sign Up for Medicare During the Annual Enrollment Period for 2024

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, also known as the Annual Election Period or Fall Open Enrollment Period, allows you to change your existing Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan for the following year. Each fall during the Annual Enrollment Period, anyone with Medicare coverage can benefit from this opportunity as needs may change.

Medicare Annual Enrollment is an opportunity to review your coverage and needs. Furthermore, for those who missed their chance to sign up for Medicare Part D when they were first eligible, this is the only time to enroll in coverage each year.

Reviewing your needs at least once a year is always a good idea, and the Fall Enrollment Period is the perfect chance. Below, we review the AEP enrollment period, when it happens, how it works, and how to utilize it best.

What is the Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare?

Medicare 101

During the Annual Enrollment Period, you can change your Medicare Part C and Part D plans for the upcoming year. Subsequently, it could also affect your Medicare Supplement plan if you choose to enroll In a Medicare Advantage plan.

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period happens each fall and allows you to ensure you are enrolled in the right coverage year after year.

The way in which you are covered for your healthcare expenses is important for several reasons. There are different options for different people, and considering you can’t have both a Medicare Advantage plan and a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan simultaneously, it’s essential to know your options.

Although the Annual Enrollment Period Medicare beneficiaries have available focuses on Parts C and D, it’s also a great time to consider your Medigap options.

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When is the Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare?

Other Names for Annual Enrollment Period

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, also known as the Fall Enrollment Period or the Open Enrollment Period, occurs each year from October 15 to December 7. During these AEP dates, you can change your Medicare elections for the upcoming year during this enrollment period.

This annual Medicare enrollment period is an opportunity to improve your Medicare elections to fit your lifestyle, healthcare needs, and budget. If you are unhappy with the changes you have made in the past or with your current plan, the Medicare Fall Open Enrollment Period is the time to fix those issues for the following year.

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AEP vs OEP

2023 Medicare Enrollment Numbers

AEP stands for Medicare Annual Enrollment Period and OEP stands for Medicare Open Enrollment Period. Depending on the context, OEP can refer to many other Medicare enrollment windows.

The difference between Medicare AEP vs OEP is that there are many different Open Enrollment Periods available through Medicare. Depending on the type of coverage you have, you can make adjustments. For example:

  • If you’re talking about the AEP, then you can make changes to your current Medicare Advantage or Part D plan.
  • Those referring to the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period can only make changes if they’re already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • If you’re referring to your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period, then you can enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan (Medigap) without having to answer any health questions.

It’s important to note, you can enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan at any point during the year. The only difference is if you do it outside your open enrollment window, you’ll have to answer Medicare Supplement underwriting questions.

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The number of changes you can make during an OEP depends on which Open Enrollment Period you’re referring to:

  • If you’re making changes to your Advantage or Part D plan during the AEP, you can make as many changes as you want. The last change you make is what will stick and become effective January 1st of the following year.
  • If you’re referring to your Medigap OEP, you can also make as many changes as you want. However, the plan you choose last is what plan you will be enrolled in and is effective the 1st of the following month, or as soon as your Part B is active. Additional changes within the 6-month window become effective on the 1st of the following month.
  • If you’re talking about the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, you can only make one change during this enrollment window. So, choose wisely the first time!

Medicare enrollment windows can be confusing but help from a licensed insurance agent can help with the process.

Comparing Prescription Drug Plans During the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period

Annual Enrollment Period Timeline

There are over 22 million Americans enrolled in a Medicare Part D drug plan in 2024. Thus, it is essential to review and compare Medicare Part D prescription drug plans each year during the Medicare Annual Enrollment period due to annual plan changes.

Like Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Part D coverage also does not stay consistent year after year, and it is crucial to review your plan changes. This way, you can compare other policy options and double-check that you have the right coverage for your needs.

Common reasons you may want to switch drug plans are:

  • Changes in premium
  • Changes in the drug formulary
  • Change in preferred pharmacy

Any of the above changes could significantly affect how you use your Medicare Part D plan. This means that a plan better suited to your needs may be available. However, you may not know these changes unless you review and compare your plan. The Medicare AEP dates are the perfect time to do this.

Each year, the company that manages your Medicare Part D plan must send you an Annual Notice of Change document in September. This document will explain any changes to your current policy that will take effect the following year. Reading and understanding these changes is necessary, as they directly affect your coverage.

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Prescription drug prices have been increasing on average at 31.6% per year. Some medications can suffer from extreme inflation and have proven to increase by over 500% within a year. This is obviously a significant concern for anyone taking prescriptions and the exact reason you’ll need to use your Annual Enrollment Period to be sure you are covered. However, to combat this extreme price increase, Medicare has implemented the prescription drug rebate rule to penalize companies with extreme cost increases for their medications.

Comparing Medicare Advantage Plans During the Annual Enrollment Period

Like Medicare Part D, your Medicare Advantage plan will see changes in networks, coverage, and out-of-pocket costs yearly. Between October 15 and December 7 each year, you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan for the new year. Your plan will experience changes yearly, so it is wise to keep up to date.

The best way to understand your plan changes is by reviewing the Annual Notice of Change. However, another plan may have made changes that are more fitting for your needs, so you and your agent should review all available plans to ensure you get the right coverage moving forward.

Can I Enroll in Original Medicare During the Annual Enrollment Period?

Annual Enrollment Period is for What Parts

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period is not the time for you to enroll in Medicare Part A or Medicare Part B (Original Medicare). To be eligible for the Annual Enrollment Period, you must already be enrolled in Original Medicare. If you are new to Medicare and need to enroll in Part A or B, you must do so during your Initial Enrollment Period or General Enrollment Period.

If you already have Original Medicare and wish to purchase a Medicare Supplement plan, you can still sign up. However, you will face medical underwriting and may be denied coverage if you do not have a guaranteed issue right.

What Changes Can I Make During the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period?

What Can I Do During Annual Enrollment Period

During the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, you can:

  • Switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare
  • Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • Enroll in a Medicare Part D plan
  • Change from one Medicare Part D plan to another
  • Disenroll from a Medicare Part D plan

If you plan to switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare and wish to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan, you can do so during this time. You can also pick up a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan to replace your coverage through your MAPD once you switch to Original Medicare.

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But remember that you must pass the Medicare Supplement underwriting eligibility questions to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan. So, it is crucial to work with an agent to enroll in the right policy based on your healthcare needs to avoid a lapse in coverage.

Can I Switch to Medicare Supplement During the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period?

Med Supp During Annual Enrollment Period

You can enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan at any time. However, you cannot have Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement coverage at the same time.

Therefore, you must have a valid disenrollment period for your Medicare Advantage plan before picking up Medigap coverage. Fortunately, the Annual Enrollment Period is a valid disenrollment period for Medicare Advantage.

When you switch to a Medicare Supplement plan, you must undergo medical underwriting. A carrier can deny issuing you a Medicare Supplement policy based on your pre-existing conditions. If you believe you may not qualify for a Medigap plan, having a Medicare Advantage plan in mind is essential to avoid a lapse in coverage.

Often, licensed agents can help you find a plan with a carrier that will accept your pre-existing condition. However, that is not always the case with more severe health conditions.

When do Changes Made During the Annual Enrollment Period Go Into Effect?

When Do My Changes Go into Effect

If you make changes to your Medicare coverage during the Annual Enrollment Period, these changes will go into effect on January 1 of the following year.

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During the Fall Open Enrollment Period, you are able to make as many changes as you wish. However, the most recent change will be honored.

For example, if you switch from a Humana Medicare Advantage plan to an Aetna Medicare Advantage plan, then later in the Fall Open Enrollment Period for Medicare, decide to change to a Cigna Medicare Advantage plan, the Cigna plan will be effective on January 1.

What Happens if I Do Not Like the Medicare Advantage Plan I Sign Up for During the Annual Enrollment Period?

Suppose you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during the Annual Enrollment Period. In that case, you will have the chance to change your plan during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. This is a separate period from January 1 to March 31 that is independent of AEP Medicare.

During this time, you can either switch back to Original Medicare or enroll in a new Medicare Advantage plan. If you switched from a Medicare Supplement plan to a Medicare Advantage plan for the first time, you would have a trial right for 12 months that allows you to switch back to your Medicare Supplement plan.

Considering the changes you make during the Fall Open Enrollment Period doesn’t go into effect until January 1 but will affect your healthcare for the entire year, getting it correct is imperative. You can still change your Medicare Advantage coverage, but especially for Part D coverage, you’ll need to get it right as you’ll have to wait until the fall to make changes.

Should You Change Coverage During the Annual Enrollment Period?

Why Change My Coverage

You should consider changing your coverage during the Annual Enrollment Period because plans change annually, and a new option may fit your needs better than your current plan. The only way to know is by reviewing your options each year.

Some changes that occur to Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans include:

  • Premium increases
  • Provider network changes
  • Formulary changes
  • Changes in benefits
  • Changes in preferred pharmacies

To avoid any unexpected surprises, you should do your due diligence to review your plan and others in your area during the Fall Enrollment Period.

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How To Prepare for the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period Checklist

It is crucial to have a plan when approaching the Annual Enrollment Period. It is never too early to prepare. If you wait too long, contacting an agent may be difficult, and you may lose your chance to change plans.

To have a successful Annual Enrollment Period, you should follow these steps to get the most out of the Medicare open enrollment dates and your healthcare coverage next year:

Make Sure You Are Eligible To Make Coverage Changes

If you are newly eligible for Medicare or have delayed coverage for any reason and do not yet have Medicare Part A and B, this is NOT your enrollment period. You will not be eligible to make changes during the Fall Open Enrollment Period unless you are within your Initial Enrollment period or are eligible for a Special Enrollment Period. In this case, you must wait until the General Enrollment Period.

But remember, if you delayed Medicare Part D coverage for whatever reason and didn’t have creditable coverage but wish to enroll, this is also your chance. You’ll be eligible to sign up for a Part D plan during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, but you’ll have to pay a penalty on top of your premium.

Decide if Your Current Coverage Is Still Best for You

When deciding on your coverage during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, you must take a deeper look at your current coverage and determine if there are any changes you would like to make. If you can find a plan with these changes, it may be the right decision to enroll in this new plan. However, no changes are necessary if your current plan is still working for you.

Contact a Licensed Insurance Agent Before December 7 To Enroll

The most critical step of the process is connecting with a licensed insurance agent specializing in the plans you want to enroll in. Often, an agent may be able to help you find plans that you were not aware of, help you save money, or recommend plans that are right for your needs.

You can also save time in comparing coverages and premiums. Everyone has different needs and variables, such as where they live. Therefore, it can be challenging to identify the right plan without a bit of help. Working with an agent is crucial to ensuring you receive the coverage you need at the lowest possible price in a fraction of the time.

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How Will I Know If My Medicare Benefits Are Changing Next Year?

Understanding whether or not you’ll experience changes in your coverage is critical for AEP Medicare. You can work with a licensed agent to understand your options and changes to your coverage, but if you have Medicare Advantage or Part D, you will be notified ahead of time.

In September, you should receive a letter from your Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D carrier containing the Annual Notice of Change document. The Annual Notice of Change will inform you if your premium, copays, pharmacy networks, or drug formulary changes in the upcoming year.

After reviewing the document, you may decide to stay on your current plan or search for a new policy that fits your needs better. Even if your current plan does not make drastic changes, reviewing other options during the Fall Enrollment Period is helpful to ensure you are still receiving the right coverage for your needs.

How to Sign Up for Medicare During the Annual Enrollment Period for 2024

Our agents are here to help you understand the dos and don’ts during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period. Our services are 100% free to you and come with no obligation. Don’t enroll in a plan you didn’t want and end up stuck with it until the next AEP. Give us a call today, or click the compare plans button to have one of our help you compare Medicare plans and rates available in your area.

Annual Enrollment Period Infographic

Sources

MedicareFAQ is dedicated to providing you with authentic and trustworthy Medicare information. We have strict sourcing guidelines and work diligently to serve our readers with accurate and up-to-date content.

Kayla Hopkins

Kayla Hopkins

Content Editor
Kayla Hopkins is an accomplished writer and Medicare guru serving as the Editor of MedicareFAQ.com. Upon completing her Communications degree from Ohio University, Kayla dedicated her time to understanding the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare. With her extensive background as a Licensed Medicare Insurance Agent, she brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her writing.
Ashlee Zareczny

Ashlee Zareczny

Compliance Manager
Ashlee Zareczny is the Compliance Manager for MedicareFAQ. As a licensed Medicare agent in all 50 states, she is dedicated to educating those eligible for Medicare by providing the necessary resources and tools. Additionally, Ashlee trains new and tenured Medicare agents on CMS compliance guidelines. Ashlee is a Medicare expert who specializes in Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D education.

7 thoughts on "Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (Medicare Fall Open Enrollment Period)"

  1. I am on Medicare and have a Medicare Advantage plan and would like to know if Ican change the advantage plan before March 1,2022

    1. Hi Deborah – if you currently have an Advantage plan, you can use the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period to change to another Advantage plan. Another option you have during this time is to drop Advantage and switch to Original Medicare, with or without a Part D prescription drug plan.

  2. I am 68 & still working full time & have medicare part A, I pay no premium at this time.
    It would be helpful if you had a check list we fill out for basic questions, About what we have now & need to have to be covered for the next year. I called medicare & they said i do not need anything else, Because I am working full time & have not retired yet.

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