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 for the question! You snuck in two questions (nice job), and I’ll tackle the first one…first. Here’s what’s going on.
The Medicare 2022 Annual Election Period
The Annual Election Period (AEP) for “most” people is between October 15 and December 7 every year.
On October 1st of every year, Medicare insurance companies and Medicare insurance agents are allowed to start advertising and talking to customers about new Medicare Advantage (MAPD) and Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans (PDP) available. Prior to October 1, they’re not allowed to talk about the plan changes or the 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 the plans for the upcoming year, you’re not allowed to enroll in them, nor are they allowed to sell you one until October 15th.
October 1-October 14 = marketing-only
October 15-December 7 = 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 prior to September 30. That means you essentially have two weeks to review the documents before being able to buy another plan.
Medicare.gov even gets in on the act – they show a “preview” section on their Planfinder website so you can look at the new plans, but you cannot enroll until October 15.
The 2022 Medicare Open Enrollment Period
The Open Enrollment Period is NOT the same as the Annual Election Period, but the fine folks at Medicare seem to use the two periods interchangeably for some reason that’s beyond my comprehension. I genuinely do not understand why they do it. Color me truly flummoxed.
Medicare apparently doesn’t call the AEP, “the AEP” even though that’s their own acronym for this time period – they’re calling it “Open Enrollment” on the Planfinder website, which can only cause confusion. The “real” Open Enrollment is between January 1 and March 31st. Why do they combine the two, potentially confusing people on Medicare? I have no idea.
Either way, no matter what a Medicare insurance company calls it in an advertisement or what Medicare calls it on their own website, it’s the AEP and you can buy/change your Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans (PDP) during this time period. When you do, your new coverage goes into effect January 1.
Group Medicare Enrollment Periods
Of course, true to form, 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 explaining how people with Group Medicare plans manage their Medicare benefits each year, so if this applies to you, be sure and check that out!
Brian, thanks again for the questions!
I love answering Medicare questions. Send me yours at email@example.com and I’ll pick a few for a future blog post!
To your wealth, wisdom and wellness!
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. He’s held leadership roles at numerous Fortune 500 Medicare health insurers in sales, marketing, operations, product development and strategy for over 20 years. Matt holds a BA from Virginia Tech and an MHA from Washington University in St. Louis.