2024 Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
Although the Annual Election Period (AEP) ends on December 7 every year, that does not necessarily mean that you’re completely out of luck if you still want to make a change to your Medicare insurance coverage after December 7. With the AEP occurring around the holidays, it’s no wonder some folks simply miss it. But never fear; the OEP is here!
Can I Make Changes to My Medicare Coverage During the OEP?
During the Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP), some avenues could still allow you to make changes to your Medicare coverage without penalty and without having to wait until the AEP next year. It’s also known as the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MAOEP).
The OEP runs from January 1 through March 31 every year. During this time, if you don’t like the plan you bought or if something else changed between last year and this year, you can make a few changes. For example, let’s say you didn’t pay attention to the packet of plan changes your insurance company mailed to you in September. You were surprised by the higher copay you had to pay at the pharmacy. Or maybe your doctor’s copay went up, or they are no longer in your network. Now’s the time to consider a change.
During this time period, you’ll be able to:
1. Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan
- Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare, Part A, and Part B. This means if you do this, you can use the OEP to sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan (again, only if you return to Original Medicare and go Bare-with-Medicare).
- Drop your stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan. I can’t think of a reason why you’d do that, but you can.
What can’t you do during the OEP?
- Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.
- Switch from one stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan to another.
Can I Drop my Medicare Advantage Plan?
If you decide to drop your Medicare Advantage plan and buy a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan during the OEP, you’ll be bumped off of your Medicare Advantage plan and default back to Original Medicare A and B for your medical insurance coverage. I can’t think of very many reasons why you’d do this, but I suppose if you really didn’t like your Medicare Advantage plan and wanted to get rid of it, you could. As such, you may also need or want to purchase a Medicare Supplement insurance plan at that time.
However, if that’s your plan, you need to be very cautious! Here are my recommendations if you want to drop your Medicare Advantage Plan.
How to Drop Your Medicare Advantage Plan for a Medicare Supplement
Depending upon the rules of your particular state, you may have to go through medical underwriting to purchase a Medicare Supplement plan outside of a special window when you turn sixty-five. Medicare Supplement plans are not like Original Medicare Parts A and B, Medicare Part D, or Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage plans) in that Medicare Supplement insurance companies can deny you coverage based on your health.
A Medicare Supplement policy is a separate policy from Original Medicare Parts A and B. Medicare Supplements are offered by Medicare Supplement insurance companies. These companies can deny you coverage or, at the very least, accept you but charge you a much higher premium. If you get denied coverage for a Medicare Supplement plan, you’ll only have Original Medicare Parts A and B and a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan to fall back on until the AEP (October 15-December 7th), when you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan once again. My advice is that if you want to go that way, you’ve got to apply and receive your acceptance or denial from the Medicare Supplement insurance company before you apply for a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan and drop your Medicare Advantage plan.
Medigap Open Enrollment Windows
In essence, you generally have a very small window to buy a Medicare Supplement plan with no medical questions to answer, and the Medicare Supplement insurance company must accept your enrollment. Said differently, Medicare Supplement plans have very narrow time frames within which you can apply for coverage and not be subject to medical underwriting.
However, more and more states are adopting what’s called “Birthday Rules” which allows people on Medigap or Medicare Supplements to make an annual change, much like Medicare Advantage plans do. This is a state-by-state change, and I’d urge you to contact an independent Medicare agent in yours to explore your options.
If you’re on a Medicare Supplement already, be very, very sure you know what you’re doing. Many people use a Medicare Supplement for a few years and then move to a Medicare Advantage plan. Some people move from one Medicare Supplement plan to another to get a cheaper rate. Whatever you do, don’t drop a Medicare supplement plan before you get confirmation on your next insurance policy! If you drop or cancel a Medicare Supplement plan, odds are, it’ll be tough to get back on to it. If you drop your Medicare Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare Parts A and B and a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan, do not automatically assume you’ll be able to buy a Medicare Supplement plan. This is unlike Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans or Medicare Part C Medicare Advantage plans. Again, those types of plans must accept you with no medical underwriting.
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Author Bio Matt Feret is the author of the Prepare for Social Security -The Insider’s Guide and the Prepare for Medicare – The Insider’s Guide book series and launched PrepareforSocialSecurity.com and PrepareforMedicare.com to help people get objective answers to questions about Social Security and 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.