What is The Medicare Annual Election Period and Why Should You Care?

Open Enrollment. White office desk with stationeryWhat is the Medicare Annual Election Period?

The Annual Election Period (AEP) lasts for about 2 months every year and allows people to make changes to their Medicare benefits. It lasts from October 15 to December 7 each year.

Who should care about the Annual Election Period?

Anyone who has Medicare benefits.

What changes can you make to your Medicare benefits during the AEP?

  • Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare
  • Change your Medicare Advantage plan to a different type of Medicare Advantage plan
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t provide prescription drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage plan that does (if you need medication benefits and your current plan does not offer them)
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan that does provide prescription drug coverage to a plan that doesn’t
  • Sign up for a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan
  • Switch to a different Medicare Part D prescription drug plan

What if you were happy with your Medicare benefits over the past year?

You don’t have to switch your plan. However, Medicare plans can change their coverage each year. This is most common with Medicare Advantage plans (also known as Medicare Part C) because they are provided by private insurance companies. It is recommended that you review your plan’s benefits for the coming year during AEP to see if there are any changes.

When do your new Medicare benefits take effect?

If you change your plan or sign up for a new plan, your benefits will begin on January 1 of the next year. So you have less than a month to wait after AEP ends on December 7.

What if you miss the Medicare Annual Election Period?

Your existing plan will remain the same the following year, but your benefits may have changed. Filing before the Medicare AEP deadline of December 7 is critical if you need to make changes to your benefits. Otherwise, you will need to wait until the next Medicare open enrollment period unless you have a life event that may qualify you for a Medicare Special Enrollment Period, such as:

  • You move to a new location where your plan does not provide coverage
  • You find out you no longer qualify for benefits from the Extra Help program
  • You get released from jail
  • Your Medicare Advantage plan ends because a private insurance provider ends a contract with Medicare
  • You become eligible for Medicare and/or Medicaid

What if you change your benefits during AEP and aren’t happy with the new plan?

Typically you have to stay on your new Medicare plan until the next AEP the following October unless you qualify for a special enrollment period. However, if you changed to a Medicare Advantage plan and don’t like it, you are allowed to switch back to Original Medicare (Part A and B) between January 1 and February 14. This is known as the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period. But, you cannot change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another during this time.

Where can you turn for help finding the right Medicare plan for you?

Choosing the best plan to meet your needs can be confusing since there are a variety of options. It’s critical to be informed and understand the impact of your decision. The official Medicare website has very detailed explanations of how everything works. If you want help selecting the best Medicare plan for you, Ask AmeriLife! Our licensed insurance agents can review your current Medicare plan with you to help determine if it provides the coverage you need or if you should make a change.

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