The annual Open Enrollment Period
) or Annual Coordinated Election Period is the time when Medicare beneficiaries can add, change
, or drop
their Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan coverage for the next year.
The AEP starts on October 15th and continues through December 7th of each year with coverage - or plan changes - taking effect on January 1st of the new year.
After the close of the AEP, most people will only have a limited
opportunity to change their Medicare Part D plan
coverage until the next AEP or Open Enrollment Period - for more information, please see: What are the Medicare Part D Special Enrollment Periods (SEP)?
The MA-OEP: Changing your Medicare Advantage plan after the AEP.
People enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan have an additional time when they can change plans outside of the AEP or an SEP: the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
). The MA-OEP is new since 2019 and provides an additional opportunity for people to drop or change their Medicare Advantage plan coverage (MA or MAPD
The Medicare Advantage OEP begins on January 1st and continues through March 31st with plan changes taking effect the first day of the month following the change.
Practical note: You may see a number of different terms that all describe the same enrollment period.
As noted by Medicare, the MA-OEP allows people:
“enrolled in an MA plan, including newly MA-eligible individuals, to make a one-time election to go to another [Medicare Advantage] plan” - or to leave their Medicare Advantage plan, join a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan [PDP], and return to Original Medicare Part A and Part B. For example, an individual enrolled in an MA-PD plan may use the OEP to switch to: (1) another MA-PD plan; (2) an MA-only plan; or (3) Original Medicare with or without a PDP.
The [MA-OEP] will also allow an individual enrolled in an MA-only plan to switch to -- (1) another MA-only plan;
(2) an MA-PD plan; or (3) Original Medicare with or without a PDP. [(Here is a link to our Medicare Part D plan finder: PDP-Finder.com
to see stand-alone Medicare Part D plans in your area.] However, this enrollment period [MA-OEP] does not allow for Part D changes for individuals enrolled in Original Medicare, including those with enrollment in stand-alone PDPs."
Since 2005, a number of different terms have been used to describe the time each year when you can add, change, or drop your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan coverage. In past years, you may have even seen the term, "annual Open Enrollment Period
" or "Medicare Open Enrollment" used interchangeably with the Annual Election Period (AEP
) or Annual Coordinated Election Period describing the annual Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plan enrollment period starting October 15th and continuing through December 7th.
The modern term used in the Medicare &
describing the annual enrollment period starting October 15th and
continuing through December 7th is: “Open Enrollment Period” for Medicare health and prescription drug plans.
The Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Benefit Manual calls
this time of year the "Annual Election Period (AEP)" and notes:
"Beginning in 2011, the AEP is from October 15 through December 7 of
every year. The AEP is also referred to as the “Fall Open Enrollment”
season and the “Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage AND
Medicare prescription drug coverage” in Medicare beneficiary
publications and other tools. MA organizations [and PDP plan sponsors]
may use these descriptions of the AEP in their member materials, as well
as in materials for prospective members."
might find the annual Medicare open enrollment period starting October 15th
through December 7th
described as the:
- Annual Enrollment Period,
- Annual Election Period,
- Annual Coordinated Election
- Medicare Fall Open Enrollment Period (OEP),
- annual Open Enrollment Period,
- Fall Open Enrollment season, or
- Open Enrollment Period for
Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage.
all these terms refer to the same (Oct. 15 to Dec. 7) enrollment period.
Important: When completing a printed enrollment application during the annual Open Enrollment Period, choose the "AEP" when asked about the enrollment period.
Although we use the term annual Open Enrollment Period
interchangeably with AEP (Annual Enrollment Period or Annual Coordinated
Election Period), when you are enrolling in a Medicare plan
using a paper application, you may see "AEP" as an enrollment period
option - meaning the annual Open Enrollment Period.
On your printed enrollment application, you may see a few other abbreviations or acronyms for different enrollment periods, such as: IEP
(Initial Enrollment Period), OEP
(Open Enrollment Period), and SEP
(Special Enrollment Period). Do not confuse these terms with your "AEP".
For more information about completing a printed Medicare plan enrollment application, please see our article:
"Seven tips for successfully submitting your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan's printed enrollment form
found at: Q1FAQ.com/24
Medicare Managed Care Manual, Chapter 2 - Medicare Advantage Enrollment and Disenrollment, Updated: August 19, 2011 (Revised: November 16, 2011, August 7, 2012, August 30, 2013,August 14, 2014, July 6, 2015, September 1, 2015, September 14, 2015, December 30, 2015, May 27, 2016, August 25, 2016,June 15, 2017 & July 31, 2018)
Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Manual, Chapter 3 - Eligibility, Enrollment and Disenrollment, Updated: August 19, 2011, (Revised: November 16, 2011, August 7, 2012, August 30, 2013, August 30, 2014, July 6, 2015, September 1, 2015, September 14, 2015, December 30, 2015, May 27, 2016, August 25, 2016, June 15, 2017, July 31, 2018 & August 12, 2020)