With the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) for Medicare plans from October 15th to December 7th drawing to a close, it can be a confusing time to understand what you can and can’t do as far as your medical insurance goes. There is a Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA-OEP) from January 1st to March 31st, which works differently from the Annual Enrollment Period.
During the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA-OEP), you can make changes to a Medicare Advantage plan such as dropping down to Original Medicare or switching to a different plan. Here is our guide to the types of changes you can make to your Medicare coverage now that the Annual Enrollment Period is over.
Outside of the one-time, six-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period that begins when you first get Medicare Part B at age 65, there’s no guarantee you can buy a Medicare Supplement plan unless you qualify for certain special provisions, known as Guaranteed Issue Rights (GI Rights). You can apply to purchase a Medicare Supplement plan at any time of the year, but the companies you apply to can deny you based on age or health status outside of the Open Enrollment window.
You can drop out of your private Medicare Supplement plan at any time of the year, but you may not be able to get into a new one outside of the Medigap Open Enrollment period. This means if you need Medicare Supplement coverage, you will have to answer questions about your health, so the plan can determine if you qualify to enroll, unless your circumstances qualify you for Guaranteed Issue Rights (GI Rights).
You will not be able to add a Medicare Advantage plan during Open Enrollment if you don’t already have one, in most cases. Some exceptions to this rule include if you’re new to Medicare or if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period during this time frame.
During the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period each year from January 1st to March 31st, you can make a one-time change to your Medicare Advantage plan, including switching to a different Medicare Advantage plan or dropping back down to Original Medicare. After that you will only be able to make plan changes if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (see below).
Special Enrollment Periods apply to certain times of year depending on the circumstance and can include life events such as moving out of your plan’s service area, qualifying for Medicaid or Extra Help, or losing creditable coverage through no fault of your own. If you happen to live in an area that offers a plan with an overall plan rating of Five Stars, you also qualify for a Special Enrollment Period to make a one-time switch to that plan. During a Special Enrollment Period you will be able to sign up for a Medicare Advantage or Part D Prescription Drug Plan even if you’re outside of the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA-OEP) or the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP).