Medicare open enrollment dates

  • The annual Medicare open enrollment period is from October 15 to December 7.

Q: When is Medicare Open Enrollment?

A: The annual Medicare Open Enrollment period begins on October 15 and continues until December 7.

During the annual enrollment period (AEP)  you can make changes to various aspects of your coverage.

  • You can switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or vice versa.
  • You can also switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, or from one Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan to another.
  • And if you didn’t enroll in a Medicare Part D plan when you were first eligible, you can do so during the general open enrollment, although a late enrollment penalty may apply.

If you want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you must meet some basic criteria.

  • You must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and B.
  • You must live in the plan’s service area.
  • You cannot have End-Stage Renal Disease (some exceptions apply; ESRD patients will be able to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans as of 2021, under the terms of the 21st Century Cures Act).

Is auto-renewal available?

If you’re already enrolled in a Medicare Part D prescription plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan and you don’t want to make changes to your coverage for the coming year, you don’t need to do anything during open enrollment, assuming your current plan will continue to be available. If your plan is being discontinued and isn’t eligible for renewal, you will receive a non-renewal notice from your carrier prior to open enrollment. If you don’t, it means you can keep your plan without doing anything during open enrollment. well are you prepared to enroll in Medicare?

But be aware that your benefits and premium could change from one year to the next. So even if you’re confident that you want to keep your current coverage for next year, it’s important to make sure you understand any changes that may apply, and that you’ve double checked to make sure that your current plan is still the best available option. The available plans and what they cover changes from one year to the next, so even if the plan you have now was the best option when you shopped last year, it’s important to verify that again before you lock yourself in for another year.

Changing Medicare Advantage coverage after the annual enrollment period

Between January 1 and March 31 each year, if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can leave your plan and return to Original Medicare, and buy a Part D prescription drug plan to supplement your Original Medicare. As of in 2019, you also have the option to switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan during this time. From 2011 through 2018, there wasn’t an option to switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan outside of the fall open enrollment period unless you had a circumstance that allowed you a Special Enrollment Period. But the 21st Century Cures Act (Section 17005) expanded the timeframe of the window (from one and a half months to three months) starting in 2019, and allows people to switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.

Only one switch during this time frame is allowed each year — you can change your mind multiple times during the enrollment period in the fall, but can only switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan (or back to Original Medicare) once in the first quarter of the new year. But if you sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan in the fall and then decide you don’t like it once it takes effect in January, you have until the end of March to make a change.

You can only sign up for Part D coverage during the first three months of the year if you’re switching from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare. You cannot, for example, be enrolled in Original Medicare with a Part D plan and then switch to a different Part D plan during the January — March enrollment period. Instead, you’d need to make that change during the fall election period (October 15 to December 7).

Enrolling in Original Medicare

If you didn’t sign up for Medicare A and B when you were first eligible, you have a chance to do so each year from January 1 to March 31, with coverage effective July 1.  You may be subject to a late enrollment penalty, however. For Medicare Part B, the penalty is an additional 10 percent of the premium for each 12 month period that you were eligible but not enrolled.

There’s a late enrollment penalty for Medicare Part A as well, but it only applies to people who have to pay premiums for Part A. Most people get Part A for free, based on their work history (or a spouse’s work history).

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