AEP: What Is it, Why Does it Happen, and When Does it Occur?

Written by: Vanessa Jerusalimiec (*Amsive Digital)  |  Reviewed by: Kristin Van Dusen  |  *MHP partners with Amsive Digital on news content

What is the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)?

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is the perfect time to make changes to your health care coverage. During this period, you can reevaluate your current health care coverage to make sure you have the right plan. You may choose to stay in the same plan or switch to a new plan.

What is Medicare AEP?

The Annual Enrollment Period happens once each year. During the AEP you have the opportunity to decide which Medicare plan is the best option for your health care needs. You'll have a few weeks to check out other plans in your area and make changes to your coverage.

During the Medicare AEP you can:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to a new Medicare Advantage plan
  • Enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan
  • Switch to a new Part D plan

Each year Medicare Advantage plans and Part D plans can also make changes to their coverage. They may add benefits or change the cost of your plan. They’ll release these new changes every year before the AEP.

When is Medicare AEP?

The Medicare Annual Enrollment period runs each year from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. Any changes made to your Medicare plan will take effect on Jan. 1. If you choose to switch plans during the AEP, your new coverage will start on Jan. 1.

Review Your Annual Notice of Change

To get ready for the AEP, review your current health care coverage. In September, your plan will release a detailed document explaining any changes in coverage. Look for your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) in the mail to see exactly what’s changing. This could include changes in premiums, copays, coinsurance, prescription medication coverage, or benefits.

Why Should You Care About Medicare Annual Enrollment Period?

The Annual Enrollment Period is a great time to make changes to your health care coverage. As your health care needs change, your plan should change too.

If you have Original Medicare, the AEP is your opportunity to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. These plans offer additional coverage options such as dental, vision, or hearing coverage. Most Medicare Advantage plans also have prescription drug coverage.

Did You Miss the Medicare AEP?

If you missed the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, you still have coverage. If you take no action during the AEP, you’ll remain enrolled in your current plan. Just remember that some of your benefits may change in January.

Are you enrolled in Original Medicare? You’ll need to wait until the next AEP to find a new plan.

Other Enrollment Periods

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan and you missed the AEP, you have one more chance each year to make changes to your coverage. During the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period you can:

  • Switch between Medicare Advantage plans
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare

This period runs every year from Jan. 1 to March 31.

You may also qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) based on certain life events. For example, if you retire or move outside of your plan’s coverage area, you will have an opportunity to enroll in a new plan.

Have Questions?

If you have questions about your current plan or your coverage options, here’s how you can reach us:

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Oct. 1-March 31
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