First it is important to define just what is the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). There is a lot of confusion out there and rightly so. The AEP acronym is used with both the annual enrollment period as well as the annual election period. To add further confusion what everyone now considers the AEP the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is now calling Open Enrollment Period or OEP. The Open Enrollment Period (OEP) also known as AEP is the time frame during which Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their Medicare Part D “Medicare Advantage” and Medicare Part D “prescription” plans. Starting in 2011 OEP starts 15 October, ends 7 December, and changes to plans take effect on 1 January.
For those on Medicare Advantage plans this time of year is particularly important. Here are some of the changes that can be made during OEP.
- Join, make changes to, switch, or drop a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.
- Switch from Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B) to Medicare Part C “Medicare Advantage plan
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another or switch back to Original Medicare
- Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare and purchase a Medicare supplement plan.
OEP is important because with very few exceptions it is the only time to make changes the Medicare Part C and Part D plans. Keep in mind that these plans are renegotiated yearly and not guaranteed renewable.
Medicare supplemental insurance OEP
The annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period does not apply to Medicare supplemental insurance also called Medigap insurance. A person who has Medicare supplemental insurance can change their plan at any time (with underwriting or without when in guaranteed issue) and all plans are guaranteed renewable. There is a onetime Open Enrollment Period Medicare supplemental insurance plans.
Open enrollment for Medicare Supplement plans are not annual occurrence. Instead, it is based off of a period that begins when a person turns 65 or when they sign up for Medicare Part B for the first time (i.e. enrollment in Part B is delayed due to having some other type of insurance such as employee group). This initial open enrollment period starts the first day of the month when turning 65 or enrolling in Part B and lasts for six months.
Medicare supplemental insurance plans also have Guaranteed Issue. There are a handful of “guaranteed issue” periods during which a person cannot be declined for certain Medicare supplement plans or made to pay more for any reason including poor health. The most common reason for guaranteed issue is when moving out of a Medicare Part C or Medigap select insurance plan’s coverage area. The guaranteed issue time last approximately two months.
If in Open Enrollment or Guaranteed Issue for Medicare supplemental insurance it is crucial to sign up for a plan during these periods. Dependent on health it is very possible to become ineligible to sign up for a plan at all when not in these time periods.
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