Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

Persons currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan have the opportunity to switch plans during the forthcoming 2020 Open Enrollment Period. 

This Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP) was launched in 2019 and continues in 2020.

You will likely be aware that you can only enroll and disenroll in a Medicare Advantage plan at certain times of the year. The Medicare Advantage  OEP (January 1 – March 31) applies solely to those with coverage under Medicare Advantage plans. The period allows enrollees to either switch back to Original Medicare (plus a Part D plan should they desire) or switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan.

During the fall Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, many people switch to Medicare Advantage, not fully understanding how the plans work. The Medicare Advantage OEP acts as a second chance for those who want to revert back to Original Medicare or switch to a different Advantage plan.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period Effective Dates

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP) in 2020 begins on January 1 and ends March 31. Throughout this period, Medicare Advantage plan holders can:

  • Switch to an alternative Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Reenroll in Original Medicare.
  • Sign up for a Part D Prescription Drug plan.

Plan holders can leave their Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare regardless of how long they have been enrolled. One can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during the fall Annual Election Period and revert back to Original Medicare, Part A and Part B during the following MA OEP. 

Should you disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan, the change comes into effect the month immediately after you make the request. So, if you disenroll any time during January, your Original Medicare plan will come into effect on February 1.

Changes From Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP)

Those who have been on Medicare for many years may remember the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP). The MADP was replaced by the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period in 2019. 

The MADP previously gave beneficiaries the option to disenroll from Medicare Advantage and return to Original Medicare. This was previously possible between January 1 and February 14. 

With the introduction of Medicare Advantage OEP, beneficiaries can switch to Original Medicare and other Medicare Advantage plans in a bigger time window (January 1 and March 31). 

The change to Medicare Advantage OEP gives enrollees additional time to change and more flexibility to switch to different plans.

It is important to remember that during the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, only one change is possible, so time should be taken to ensure the switch is in your best interest.

Differences Between AEP & OEP

The many Medicare buzz words and different enrollment periods can make it difficult for beneficiaries to differentiate between them all. Perhaps the most common query is the difference between AEP and OEP. 

AEP = Medicare Annual Enrollment Period.

OEP = Medicare Open Enrollment Period.

AEP is the time of year when Medicare beneficiaries can add, change, or disenroll from their Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan coverage. The changes can be made from October 15 to December 7 and take effect on January 1 of the following year.

During OEP, beneficiaries can make specific changes to their Medicare Advantage plan coverage. This could include switching from one Medicare Advantage plan to another or disenrolling from Medicare Advantage and returning to Original Medicare. 

In essence, the OEP is for those who selected a less than optimal Medicare plan during AEP and require a second shot at a better policy. 

Any changes made to your plan through OEP will take effect on the first day of the following month after your current plan processed your requested change.

Only one plan change can be made during OEP period (January 1 – March 31) without penalty from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Enrollees, therefore, are unable to switch to Medicare Advantage in January and then revert back to Original Medicare in February, for example.

Open Enrollment Period: Medicare Supplement vs. Medicare Advantage

While Medicare plans such as Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D have open enrollment periods every year, Medicare Supplement open enrollment is more limited, happening only once or twice in a lifetime. 

Medicare Supplement (also known as Medigap) works alongside Original Medicare coverage to help fill in specific gaps. The ideal time to enroll is during the Medigap Open Enrollment Period which is a six-month period that begins on the first day of the month that you turn 65. If you miss the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period, there may not be another chance to enroll in Medigap without underwriting. 

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period is open for all Medicare Advantage enrollees from January 1 – March 31 every year.

Medicare Advantage enrollment is normally quick and easy. However, Medicare Supplement plans typically take a little longer because answers to medical questions are needed by carriers to determine application approval.

If you or a close relative wants to change a Medicare Advantage plan, the Medicare Advantage OEP gives you the opportunity to make a switch. With so many appealing Medicare Advantage plans to choose from, there is sure to be an ideal fit for your needs.