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 Dear Matt!

I know the AEP begins on October 15th of every year, but I don’t understand why I see Medicare ads talking about new Medicare plans before then.  I can’t make any changes to my Medicare insurance policy until October 15th, right? And why do I see “Open Enrollment” everywhere? Is that the same thing?

Thanks,

Brian D.

The Medicare 2022 Annual Election Period

For most people, the Annual Election Period, or the AEP, is between October 15 and December 7 of every year. On October 1st, Medicare insurance companies and agents can start advertising Medicare Advantage–MAPD–and Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans–PDP–to customers. Before October 1, they’re not allowed to talk about the plan changes or benefits for the upcoming year.

So, while they’re allowed to market new plans and tell you about the changes to your Medicare insurance policies, you’re not allowed to enroll in them yet, nor are they allowed to sell you one until October 15th. 

To put it simply, October 1 to October 14 is marketing-only. October 15 to December 7 is both marketing and sales/enrollment. Why the two-week gap? Medicare insurance companies usually send out their Annual Notice of Change–ANOC–and their Evidence of Coverage–EOC–documents on or just before September 30. That means you have two weeks to review the documents before you can buy another plan.

Medicare.gov even gets in on the sneak peek process. They show a “preview” section on their Planfinder website so you can look at the new plans, but you still cannot enroll in them until October 15.

The 2022 Medicare Open Enrollment Period

The Open Enrollment Period is NOT the same as the Annual Election Period. Still, the fine folks at Medicare seem to use the two periods interchangeably for some reason that’s beyond my comprehension. I do not understand why they do it. 

Medicare doesn’t call the Annual Enrollment Period “the AEP,” even though that’s their acronym for this period. They call it “Open Enrollment” on the Planfinder website, which is confusing. The actual window for Open Enrollment is between January 1 and March 31st. 

Either way, no matter what a Medicare insurance company calls it in an advertisement or website, it’s the Annual Election Period (AEP). You can buy/change your Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans during this period. When you do, your new coverage goes into effect on January 1. 

Group Medicare Enrollment Periods

Of course, there are always exceptions in Medicare-land. If you’re part of a Medicare Group retiree plan, you may be able to enroll beginning on October 1st, and your enrollment period may last beyond December 7th.

Chapter eleven of my book is dedicated to an explanation of how people with Group Medicare plans manage their Medicare benefits each year, so if this applies to you, be sure and check that out! 

I love answering Medicare questions.  Send me yours at questions@prepareformedicare.com and I’ll pick a few for a future blog post!

To your wealth, wisdom and wellness!

-Matt Feret

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Author Bio Matt Feret is the author of the Prepare for Medicare book series and launched prepareformedicare.com to help people get objective answers to questions about Medicare. Matt is also the host of The Matt Feret Show. He has held leadership roles at numerous Fortune 500 Medicare health insurers in sales, marketing, operations, product development, and strategy for over two decades.