What is the Medicare Annual Election Period?
The Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP) is nearly upon us again. What you need to know about this time of the year.
The Medicare Annual Election Period, also known as the Annual Enrollment Period or AEP, runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year. While there are other enrollment periods during the year for the many parts of Medicare, this may be one of the only times that beneficiaries have the ability to make any changes to their Medicare Advantage (MA) and/ or Medicare Part D coverage. Any Medicare coverage change made during this time will be in effect for the following calendar year.
Medicare Annual Election Period Changes
During the Medicare Annual Election Period, beneficiaries can switch from government-offered Original Medicare coverage (Part A and Part B) to a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, or change from their currently enrolled MA plan back to Original Medicare.
In addition to switching from Original Medicare to an MA plan, the AEP allows Medicare beneficiaries to change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another. This includes switching from a Medicare Advantage plan that does not include prescription drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MAPD) plan. Likewise, a beneficiary may switch from an MAPD to a regular MA plan.
During the AEP, a beneficiary may also enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) to go with their Original Medicare or Medicare Supplement coverage. If they already have prescription coverage, they may switch from one plan to another. Alternately, they may completely drop their prescription coverage during the AEP, but not without consequences.
Before Enrolling during the Medicare Annual Election Period Remember, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plan details and costs can change every year. Keep track of these details and compare your current plan against others on an annual basis in order to avoid unnecessary spending. You should receive an Annual Notice of Change packet from your current plan provider each year so you understand exactly what’s changing.
You should also consider making a list of all of your prescription drug medications. Having this information on hand will make it easier when researching plans or speaking to a licensed agent about plan enrollment. If you do not take any medications and you do not have creditable prescription drug coverage, you may want to consider enrolling in a Medicare Part D plan anyway to avoid unnecessary Part D enrollment penalties in the future.
The Medicare Annual Election Period is a good time for you to reevaluate your coverage. You want to make sure that you will continue to be enrolled in the best plan for your needs in the coming year.
Other Medicare Enrollment Periods If you miss the AEP, there are some additional options but they are limited. First there is a disenrollment period that lasts from January 1 to February 14 of the following year called the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP). During this time, beneficiaries may switch out of a Medicare Advantage plan and revert back to Original Medicare. They cannot leave a Medicare Advantage plan in favor of joining another private plan during this period. If they drop an MA plan with drug coverage, they may then be able to pick up a standalone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan for medication coverage.
Beneficiaries may also qualify to join a Medicare Advantage plan during a Special Election Period (SEP). Some of the circumstances that might warrant an SEP include, but are not limited to:
• Any time you move to a new coverage area
• If you are enrolled in the Extra Help from the government or qualify for this program
• If you are enrolled in a Pharmacy Assistance Program(SPDAP)
• If you are enrolled in Medicaid
Mike Zimmer is President of Bay State Insurance Agency Ltd. in Centreville. He is available to answer your questions or speak to your groups regarding Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplements and Medicare Part D (Prescription Plans). He may be reached at 410-7581680.