The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is coming to a close, with December 7th being the last day to make changes to your Medicare coverage. AEP runs from October 15th through December 7th every year. If you miss AEP and don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP), you will have to wait until next year’s Annual Enrollment Period to make any changes to your Medicare coverage.
AEP gives Medicare beneficiaries the ability to:
It is important to note that you cannot enroll in Medicare for the first time during AEP. It’s best if you sign up for Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which includes the three months preceding your birth month, the birth month itself, and the three months following your birthday. If you missed your IEP and do not qualify for an SEP, you must wait for the Medicare Open Enrollment Period that runs from January 1st through March 31st. Your coverage will not begin until July 1st.
Missing AEP does not mean that you lose your Medicare coverage. Instead, your current coverage continues into the next year. There is also a chance that you qualify for an SEP, which would allow you to make the changes you would normally make during AEP.
If you did not sign up for Medicare because you had existing coverage from an employer, you qualify for an SEP for either 8 months after employment ends or coverage ends. However, if you do not qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, you will have to wait for the next AEP to make any changes to coverage.
Some people choose to ignore AEP because they are happy with the coverage they already have. And there is no rule that says you have to change your coverage. But, that does not mean you should ignore Annual Enrollment.
Each year, plans notify beneficiaries of coming changes via the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and Evidence of Coverage (EOC) documents. (You should have received these in September.) Failure to read these notices means you may miss important changes that impact you directly. This includes providers leaving networks, prices going up or down, and prescription drugs entering and leaving formularies.
It’s also important to note that your plan isn’t the only one changing next year. AEP gives you the chance to review all of your options to ensure you have the best coverage available at a price that fits your budget.
You can expect a few changes to Medicare in 2020. This is particularly true for Medicare Advantage.
Finally, Medicare continues phasing out Medicare Cost Plans. If this includes your plan, and you do not act during Annual Enrollment, you will be automatically enrolled in either Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. Which option you get depends on your current plan and location.
Our Medicare Annual Enrollment Prep 101 is a great resource if you’re just getting started. As a recap:
The easiest way to manage AEP is to make a list of your providers and medications. Then, review out your ANOC and EOC to determine whether any changes are going to affect you.
Compare your provider and prescription lists with your current coverage. Then, look at the plan options in your area to see whether there’s better coverage available.
When comparing costs, look at the total out-of-pocket costs of a plan, not just the monthly premium. That includes deductibles and co-pays or co-insurance.
Medicare enrollment can be confusing and even overwhelming. You have a lot of options to compare to ensure you’re getting the best coverage at the best price.
Our Find a Plan tool is easy to use and completely free. Just enter your location, add a coverage start date, and hit Continue to start comparing plan options in your area.
Chris Gasparini has been a licensed insurance agent since 2005. He enjoys helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate their options to find the best solution for their unique needs. Chris feels as though his work truly helps people. Because he represents multiple insurance companies and plan types, Chris is able to help Medicare beneficiaries find the best, most cost-effective plan. Every day, he leaves work knowing he did what was right for each and every client he serves.
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Last Updated 12/21/2018