Open Enrollment vs. Annual Enrollment: What Does it Mean?

Helping Clients Understand Medicare, Steinlage Insurance Agency

It may seem lately that it’s impossible to turn on the television or listen to the radio without hearing something about Medicare open enrollment and annual enrollment. The worst part is that the terminology can be confusing. “Fall enrollment period,” “annual election period,” “annual enrollment,” “Medicare Advantage enrollment period,” “AEP,” and “OEP” are just a few of the terms that get tossed in the mix.

There are two types of enrollment periods for Medicare: annual enrollment and open enrollment. Though they are sometimes called by different names, it all boils down to these two timeframes and what you can and cannot do during each.

So what do they mean for you?

Medicare Annual Enrollment (AEP)

Annual enrollment, often referred to as AEP, takes place in fall, October 15 through December 7. This is the time when you can make changes to your Medicare plan to make it work better for you. A simple way to remember this is, as the leaves change, so can your Medicare plan.

Every September, Medicare enrollees receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) letter to let you know what changes may affect your plan for the following year. Premiums can increase; provider coverage can change; dental premiums may change; and you may see changes to which prescription drugs are covered under your plan.

Read your ANOC letter carefully, because if you aren’t happy with your coverage, the AEP is a window of opportunity to find a plan that better suits your needs.

During the annual enrollment period, you can do the following:

Drop a Medicare Advantage Plan
Cancel your Part D plan
Enroll in a Part D plan
Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to a different one
Change from Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
Change from one Part D prescription drug plan to another

Any changes you make will go into effect January 1 of the next year.

The ins and outs of Medicare can be very confusing, and Steinlage Insurance Agency is here for you every step of the way. If you need help determining whether or not your Medicare supplemental plan, your Part D plan, or your Medicare Advantage coverage is the right option for you, give us a call!

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Medicare Open Enrollment (OEP)

Medicare open enrollment (OEP) takes place January 1 through March 31.

During OEP, if you are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can:

Cancel a Part D prescription plan
Enroll in a Part D prescription plan
Drop Medicare Advantage and revert back to Medicare
Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another

Your open enrollment elections will go into effect the first day of the month after you change your plan. For example, if you make a plan change January 15, it will go into effect February 1.

Medicare Part D and Medigap

If you are enrolled in a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription plan, you are automatically dis-enrolled from Medicare Advantage and placed into Medicare Part A and Part B. This is because Medicare Advantage also includes prescription coverage.

You can enroll in a Medigap, or Medicare supplemental insurance, once you are dis-enrolled from your Medicare Advantage plan. This may require medical qualification, however, so be sure to discuss your options with Steinlage Insurance Agency before you make changes.

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Medicare Open Enrollment: One Chance to Change

Unfortunately, you only have one opportunity to choose the right Medicare plan for you during open enrollment. Once you’ve enrolled, you’ll need to wait until annual enrollment the following fall to make changes.

Though there are special election periods (SEPs), they are only offered under certain circumstances, and for specific coverage options. This is why it’s so important to get it right the first time.

If you live in AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, IL, IN, KS, MD, MO, NE, NM, NY, OR, RI, SC, TX, VA, or WA, the compassionate and knowledgeable agents at Steinlage Insurance Agency can help you sort through the mire of Medicare options. We can provide you with the information you need to make the best choice for your unique situation.