Table of Contents:

  1. What is the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)?
  2. What is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?
  3. How Do I Change Medigap Coverage?
  4. What If I Didn’t Sign Up for Original Medicare When I Turned 65?

What Is the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)?

AEP refers to the period that runs from October 15th to December 7th every year. During this time, beneficiaries can assess their coverage and make certain adjustments. Medicare beneficiaries can make the following changes during the AEP:

  • Transition from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Transition from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare
  • Transition from one PDP to another
  • Enroll in Medicare Part D (if you neglected to enroll during your first period of eligibility, a penalty may apply)
  • Switch from one Medicare Part D plan to another
  • Drop Medicare Part D Coverage

This period does not apply to Medigap plans and their beneficiaries.

What Is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?

There is an additional open enrollment period that is only available to Medicare Advantage enrollees. This period runs from January 1st to March 31stand enables Medicare Advantage enrollees to switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare (with or without Part D), or switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another and join Part D, if necessary. You can only make one switch during this period. You cannot switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan during this period.

How Do I Change Medigap Coverage?

Medicare beneficiaries interested in Medigap coverage are generally advised to enroll during their first guaranteed issue period. This six-month window begins the month you first enroll in Medicare Part B and are 65 years of age or older. For some Americans, this is the only time they will be guaranteed a policy.

You also have a guaranteed issue right if one of the following statements describes your situation:

  • You’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan, and your plan is leaving Medicare or stops offering care in your area, or you move out of the plan’s service area.
  • You have Original Medicare and an employer group health plan (including retiree or COBRA coverage) or union coverage that pays after Medicare stops paying, and that plan is ending.
  • You have Original Medicare and a Medicare SELECT policy and you move out of the Medicare SELECT policy’s service area.
  • You joined a Medicare Advantage Plan or Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) when you were first eligible for Medicare Part A at 65, and within the first year of joining, you decide you want to switch to Original Medicare.
  • You dropped a Medigap policy to join a Medicare Advantage Plan (or to switch to a Medicare SELECT policy) for the first time, you’ve been in the plan less than a year, and you want to switch back.
  • Your Medigap insurance company goes bankrupt and you lose your coverage, or your Medigap policy coverage otherwise ends through no fault of your own.
  • You leave a Medicare Advantage Plan or drop a Medigap policy because the provider hasn’t followed the rules, or it misled you.

Additionally, some states offer guaranteed issue periods that are more expansive. In California, residents have a 60-day window every year (following their birthdays) to switch from one Medigap plan to another plan with equal or lesser benefits. In Oregon, the “birthday rule” allows for a similar 30-day window.

Contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program office to learn more about policies that could affect your eligibility.

What If I Didn’t Sign Up for Original Medicare When I Turned 65?

If you didn’t sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B when you were first eligible, you can do so every year from January 1st to March 31st. Coverage will go into effect on July 1st. You may have to pay a late-enrollment penalty.

Information adapted from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services