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Medicare Open Enrollment Period Basics

There are various Medicare enrollment periods throughout the year each with its own purpose and benefits. The Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP), which lasts from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 each year, is the most widely used enrollment period to enroll in, make changes to, or dis-enroll from Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) and Prescription Drug Plans (Medicare Part D).

Below, we provide an overview of the basics of Open Enrollment so you can feel confident in making informed purchasing decisions about your Medicare insurance during this important time.

What is Open Enrollment?

Medicare’s Open Enrollment, which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, is one of the most popular times of year for electing new Medicare coverage. . This period specifically applies to Medicare beneficiaries who are either currently enrolled in, or want to enroll in, Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Prescription Drug Plans. You may see this period also referred to as the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) or the Annual Election Period.

NOTE: There is also an enrollment period called Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment. This period applies only to individuals who are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. It lasts from Jan. 1 through March 31 each year, or if you’re new to Medicare you can within the first three months that you get Medicare. 

Who does Open Enrollment affect?

Open Enrollment is important for anyone who is eligible for Medicare to understand, but it does not necessarily affect all Medicare beneficiaries. OEP is most important for anyone looking to change coverage concerning Medicare Advantage (Part C) and prescription drug (Part D) plans. While you can still shop for other Medicare plans (like Medicare Supplement and Dental coverage, Vision coverage, and Hearing coverage), those plans are not dependent on Open Enrollment to make changes.

What changes can be made during Medicare Open Enrollment?

Here is a general list of what you can do during the the Open Enrollment Period. 

NOTE: Changes to Medicare Advantage Plans and Part D coverage become effective on Jan. 1 of the following year.

  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to Medicare Supplement Insurance.
  • Enroll in or switch your Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan to just Original Medicare (Part A & Part B).
  • Replace Original Medicare (Part A & Part B) with a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Change your prescription drug plan (Part D).
  • Enroll in a Part D plan.
  • Change from a Part D plan to a Medicare Advantage plan (if you are enrolled in Part A and Part B of Original Medicare).
  • Remove your Part D prescription drug coverage.

LEARN MORE: What Changes Can I Make During Open Enrollment?

What can’t be done during Open Enrollment?

Here is a list of things you cannot do during the Open Enrollment Period:

  • Qualify for a guaranteed issue of a Medicare Supplement with the OEP election code only (unless this coincides with your initial enrollment period). You’ll need to go through other qualification standards to test if you’re eligible for a guaranteed issue of a supplement.
  • Enroll into employer group coverage or retiree benefit plans.

Get help with Open Enrollment

If you would like to make changes to your Medicare coverage, but don’t know where to start, SmartMatch can help. Our Licensed Insurance Agents work with you to find the coverage you want at the right price for your budget. We can help you compare popular insurance options available in your area, on one easy call including:

  • Medicare Supplement Insurance
  • Medicare Advantage Plans
  • Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D)
  • Dental, Vision, and Hearing Options
  • And more!

Key Takeaway

Open Enrollment runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 each year, and gives Medicare beneficiaries the opportunity to join, change to or disenroll from a Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. This is a good opportunity to evaluate if your coverage is keeping pace with your needs and budget. 

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