It’s easy for Medicare enrollees to lose track of the numerous enrollment periods where they can make health care plan changes. One period which may get overlooked is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period.
The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period happens annually from Jan. 1 to March 31 for Medicare Advantage enrollees wanting to change their plan. However, this period isn’t the same as the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period in the fall.
Below we’ll break down what you can and can’t do during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period and why someone would use it.
How is OEP Different from AEP?
The Medicare enrollment periods can sometimes go by different names and can be confusing for Medicare beneficiaries. From now on, we’ll refer to the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period as OEP and the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, which happens every year from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 as AEP.
Unlike AEP, which is open for all Medicare enrollees, OEP is limited to those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan. This period also limits what you can and can’t do with your MA plan during this time.
During OEP, MA enrollees can do the following:
- Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan or carrier.
- Switch to or from a Medicare Advantage Plan with prescription drug coverage.
- Revert from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and join a Prescription Drug Plan and/or a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan.*
*Medicare Supplement Insurance enrollment may be subject to underwriting.
On the flip side, you can’t do the following during OEP:
- Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.
- Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan if you only have Original Medicare.
- Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another if you only have Original Medicare.
Who is Eligible for OEP?
As stated above, OEP is available for people currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan. What adds to the confusion of OEP is that there’s another special enrollment period happening simultaneously.
The General Enrollment Period happens every year from Jan. 1 to March 31. This period is for people who didn’t sign up for Medicare during their Initial Enrollment Period. If you already have Medicare Part A coverage and get Medicare Part B for the first time during this period, you can also join a Medicare Advantage Plan. However, your coverage will not start until July 1i
Why Would Someone Change Their MA Plan?
Before 2019, the primary time someone could make changes to their Medicare Advantage Plan outside of AEP was during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period, which ran from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14.ii However, due to new health care laws, the introduction of the OEP we have today was a welcomed change as it gives MA enrollees more time to evaluate their current plan.
OEP could be an excellent opportunity for long-time Medicare Advantage Plan holders to switch to a plan offering new or additional benefits if they missed out on AEP. According to an analysis from Avalere, more 2022 Medicare Advantage plans will offer non-medical supplemental benefits, such as meals, nutrition, transportation and in-home support services at a $0 monthly premium leveliii
For others, they may find that a Medicare Advantage Plan may not be what they expected – possibly thinking it would be similar to a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan – and wish to go back to Original Medicare.
Whether you’re interested in making a change to your current Medicare Advantage Plan or wishing to get out of one, an Ensurem team member can help you through the process.
When Will My Plan Go Into Effect During OEP?
It’s important to note that you can only make one change to your health care plan during OEP. Therefore, it’s essential to choose the right plan for you because you will not be able to make changes until AEP on Oct. 15.
Once you make your desired change to your health care plan, it will go into effect the first day of the month after the insurance plan gets your request.iv
Are You Interested in Changing Your MA Plan?
Whether you wish to switch Medicare Advantage Plans or revert to Original Medicare and get a Prescription Drug Plan, let Ensurem be your guide.
When you call to speak with an Ensurem licensed insurance agent, you’ll be greeted by someone whose mission is to help you find the best plan for you. Your agent accomplishes this by being your advocate, someone who will get to know your specific needs and concerns. That way, if you’re looking to switch to a plan with a lower monthly premium or includes additional benefits, then you’ll be presented with a selection of plans available in your area.
[i] “Understanding Medicare Advantage Plans,” Page 13, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Nov. 2020, https://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/12026-Understanding-Medicare-Advantage-Plans.pdf
[ii] “CMS Finalizes Policy Changes and Updates for Medicare Advantage and the Prescription Drug Benefit Program for Contract Year 2019 (CMS-4182-F),” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, April 2, 2018, https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/cms-finalizes-policy-changes-and-updates-medicare-advantage-and-prescription-drug-benefit-program
[iii] “More Medicare Advantage Plans Will Offer Non-Medical Benefits in 2022,” Avalere Health, Oct. 19, 2021, https://avalere.com/insights/more-medicare-advantage-plans-will-offer-non-medical-benefits-in-2022
[iv] “Understanding Medicare Advantage Plans,” Page 14, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Nov. 2020, https://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/12026-Understanding-Medicare-Advantage-Plans.pdf