The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is the time each year during which Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their Medicare coverage. During AEP, which occurs from October 15 to December 7 each year, Medicare beneficiaries can do the following:
Enroll in or change Medicare Advantage Plans: Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies and provide all the benefits of Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) along with additional coverage like vision, dental, and prescription drugs. During the AEP, individuals can enroll in, switch, or disenroll from Medicare Advantage plans.
Enroll in or change Prescription Drug Plans (Medicare Part D): Beneficiaries can use the AEP to switch from one Part D plan to another to better suit their medication needs.
Switch Between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage: Beneficiaries who are currently enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) can use the AEP to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan, and vice versa.
If you're already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you might wonder why you should consider reviewing your options during AEP. While you're not required to make changes, there are several reasons why it's a good idea to evaluate your coverage during this time:
Medicare Advantage plans can change their benefits and cost sharing from year to year. During AEP, you have the opportunity to review any changes your current plan will make for the upcoming year. This could include changes to premiums, copayments, and deductibles.
Your health needs can change over time. What was suitable for you in the past might not meet your needs now. Use AEP to assess whether your current plan still provides the coverage you require.
Insurance companies introduce new Medicare Advantage plans each year. These plans might offer better coverage, lower costs, or additional benefits that align with your healthcare needs.
Medicare Advantage plans usually have networks of doctors, hospitals, and specialists. If you want to continue seeing a specific healthcare provider, you should verify whether they will still be in-network with your current plan or any potential new plan.
Whether you get your prescription drug coverage (Medicare Part D) as part of your Medicare Advantage plan or as a stand-alone policy, it's important to review the formulary (their list of covered drugs) to ensure that your necessary medications are still covered at a reasonable cost.
Life circumstances can change, which may affect your healthcare needs and financial situation. If you've recently experienced significant changes, it's a good time to reassess your Medicare coverage.
If you are on Original Medicare plus a Medigap (Medicare Supplement) plan, be aware that
AEP primarily focuses on changes related to Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans, not Medigap plans. However, AEP is a good time to consider whether your healthcare needs have changed and whether your Medigap plan is still providing the coverage you need. If you're considering switching from Medigap to Medicare Advantage, AEP is the time to do it. However, it's important to carefully evaluate your decision. Medicare Advantage plans work differently from Medigap plans, and the choice to switch depends on your individual healthcare needs, preferences, and the availability of plans in your area. And if you have a Medigap plan with a standalone prescription drug plan, you will use AEP to evaluate your drug coverage.
Remember that your healthcare needs are unique, so it's essential to carefully review and compare your options to choose the Medicare Advantage plan that best aligns with your specific requirements and preferences. During AEP, it can be helpful to sit down with a licensed insurance agent who specializes in Medicare. Your agent can audit your current coverage against other plans that are available to you, with specific consideration to your doctors and drugs. Independent agents who specialize in Medicare also have the benefit of understanding annual plan changes across multiple carriers, so they can reduce the time you spend researching your options. Best of all, you can work with an agent at no cost to you.