The Medicare annual Open Enrollment Period is the same every year - and begins on October 15th and continues for seven (7) weeks through December 7th.
During the AEP, you can join, change, or drop your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan (PDP
) or Medicare Advantage plan (like an
HMO, PPO, HMO POS, or PFFS plan) that includes prescription coverage (MAPD
or a Medicare Advantage plan without prescription coverage (MA).
The changes that you make to your Medicare plan coverage will take effect on January 1st.
For example, if you decide to drop your Medicare Advantage plans during the AEP and join a stand-alone Part D drug plan, your new Medicare Part D plan coverage will begin on January 1st - and you will be returned to your original Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B coverage.
You may hear different terms for the same enrollment period.
The popular name of the fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period has evolved over time and you may hear people say:
- annual Open Enrollment Period or AEP (the term we use most often) or
- the Annual Enrollment Period or
- the Annual Coordinated Election Period or
- the Annual Election Period.
All of these names describe the same annual Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plan enrollment period starting October 15th and continuing through December 7th.
The AEP vs. the MA-OEP
Please be sure to recognize the MA-OEP
as the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period - not to be confused with the AEP or Fall OEP. The MA-OEP begins January 1st and continues through March 31st. During the MA-OEP, you have one opportunity to change or drop your Medicare Advantage plan (MA/MAPD) coverage.
If you make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan during the MA-OEP, coverage for your new Medicare plan - (PDP
) or Medicare Advantage plan (MA or MAPD
) will begin the first day of the month after the change.
For example, if you decide to drop your Medicare Advantage plans on January 2nd, during
the MA-OEP and join a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, your new Medicare Part
D plan coverage will begin on February 1st - and on February 1st, you will be returned to
your original Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B coverage.
Reminder: Enrolling into a Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan outside the AEP
Usually, you cannot change your Medicare plan coverage outside of the AEP or MA-OEP. However, Medicare provides Special Enrollment Periods
(SEP) allowing plan changes outside of the AEP or MA-OEP for people who experience certain changes in their life or meet certain requirements.
For example, if you move out of your Medicare plan's service area (the region
or state or county or ZIP code), you will be granted an SEP to join a new Medicare Part D (or Medicare Advantage plan) in your new service area.
Also, people who move into, reside in, or move out of a nursing facility (SNF), long-term care facility (LTC), or assisted living facility will be granted an SEP to find a new Medicare Part D plan.
And Medicare beneficiaries who qualify for the Medicare Part D financial extra help program
are granted a quarterly SEP to change Medicare plans once per quarter during the first nine months of the year (January - September).
You can read more about Special Enrollment Periods here:
If you are granted a Special Enrollment Period and change Medicare plans outside of the AEP, your new Medicare Part D plan coverage will start (or have an effective date) on the first day of the next month after your enrollment decision.
Example of an SEP for "moving to another Service Area"
You move from Florida to North Carolina in June (and North Carolina is no longer in your Medicare plan's Service Area). You will be granted a Special Enrollment Period to join a new Part D plan (or Medicare Advantage plan) that is available in your new residence state of North Carolina (or the specific county where you live). If you choose to enroll in a new Medicare plan in June, your new plan coverage begins on July 1st.
However, if you are enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan in Pennsylvania and move to West Virginia, you are not
granted an SEP because Pennsylvania and West Virginia are in the same Medicare Part D plan region
(CMS Region 6). You can see how states across the country are organized into Medicare Part D plan regions here: https://q1medicare.com/PartD-Medicare-PartD-Overview-byRegion.php