Medicare AEP vs. OEP: Know Your Enrollment Periods

The acronyms “AEP” and “OEP” are often used interchangeably or incorrectly when discussing certain Medicare enrollment periods, and it’s easy to see why there can be some confusion.

  • “Medicare AEP” is the Annual Enrollment Period (also called the Annual Election Period). It is officially known as the “Medicare Advantage & Prescription Drug Plan Annual Enrollment Period. You may also see it referred to as the “Medicare Fall Open Enrollment Period.” It takes place every fall from October 15 to December 7.

  • “Medicare OEP” could also refer to the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. This is a new, different enrollment period that takes place every year from January 1 to March 31.

It is very important to understand the differences between these two enrollment periods and how they affect your Medicare coverage. Learn about how and when you can add, change or drop your Medicare Advantage plan or Prescription Drug plan.

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What is AEP for Medicare?

The Medicare AEP (Medicare Annual Enrollment Period) lasts from October 15 to December 7 every year.

During the Medicare AEP, you can make certain specific changes to your Medicare Advantage (Part C) or Medicare prescription drug (Part D) plan. Changes you make during AEP will take effect on January 1 of the following year.

During AEP, you can make some of the following Medicare coverage changes:

  • Disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B)

  • Switch from Original Medicare and enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan

  • Disenroll from your current Medicare Advantage plan and switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan

  • Disenroll from a Medicare prescription drug plan

  • Enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan

  • Switch from one Medicare prescription drug plan to another Medicare drug plan

The Medicare AEP gives you an opportunity to make changes to your Medicare plan coverage according to your changing budget or health coverage needs. If your current plan makes changes to its costs, benefits structure, or other features, AEP gives you the opportunity to change to a plan that better suits your needs.

What is an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)?

Every year in September, you should receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) in the mail from your Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Prescription Drug plan provider. This letter outlines any upcoming changes to the plan for the following year, such as:

  • Costs
  • Benefits
  • Service area adjustments
  • Provider network changes

Be sure to take the time to review your plan ANOC and make sure that your Medicare plan still fits with your coverage and budget needs for the coming year.

If anything is changing in your plan and you want to see what else is offered in your area, the Medicare AEP is your opportunity to find a Medicare plan option that works better for you.

What is the Annual Election Period?

The Medicare AEP is sometimes also called by several other names, such as the Annual Election Period or the Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage. It is also sometimes called the Medicare Fall Open Enrollment Period.

It’s understandable why there can be some confusion between these two enrollment periods. Our helpful Medicare Enrollment Guide can help walk you through the enrollment process.

What is OEP for Medicare?

The Medicare OEP (Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period) lasts from January 1 to March 31 every year.

During OEP, you can make certain changes to your Medicare Advantage plan coverage. Any changes you make to your plan will take effect on the first day of the following month after your current plan processed your requested change.

During the Medicare Advantage OEP, you can make the following changes:

  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • Disenroll from your current Medicare Advantage and return to Original Medicare

Changes made during OEP will take effect on the first day of the following month. Beneficiaries can only make one change during OEP. Once a change has been made during OEP, it cannot be changed again until the next AEP.

In 2019, Medicare OEP replaced what was previously the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period.

Do I have to enroll in Medicare every year?

You aren’t required to make changes to your Medicare coverage every year. It’s a good idea, however, to review your plan each year to determine whether or not your plan still meets your needs.

In any given year, you may find that another Medicare plan in your area offers provider networks that better fit your needs, lower costs, a broader range of coverage or other features that make the plan a better fit for you.

Whether it’s AEP, OEP or any of the other Medicare enrollment periods, it helps to have a licensed insurance agent help guide you through the Medicare enrollment process.