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What’s the Difference Between the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period and Medicare Open Enrollment?

medicare-annual-enrollment-open-enrollment-difference

With so many similar names, it’s easy to confuse Medicare enrollment periods. We’re here to take the confusion out of the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, Medicare Open Enrollment and other important dates, so you’ll know which ones apply to you and what you can do during each of these windows.

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period occurs from October 15 to December 7 every year. During this enrollment period, Medicare beneficiaries can make a number of changes to their Medicare coverage, including:

  • Enrolling in a Medicare Advantage or Part D (prescription drug) Plan for the first time
  • Changing Medicare Advantage or Part D Plans
  • Dropping a Medicare Advantage or Part D Plan for Original Medicare-only coverage

Medicare plan providers announce any updates or changes to their plans before the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, so you can find up-to-date benefits and costs of a plan for the next year.

Read our Guide to the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period.

Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP)

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period occurs from January 1 to March 31 each year. Unlike the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, this enrollment period does not offer an opportunity to make any changes to a Part D Plan, only Medicare Advantage Plans.

If you’re currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can use this timeframe to:

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Drop (dis-enroll from) a Medicare Advantage Plan and return to Original Medicare coverage only

Learn more about the Medicare Open Enrollment Period.

Get Help Enrolling in a Medicare Plan

Our Medicare Advocates can assist you in identifying enrollment periods, finding Medicare plans in your area, and enrolling in a plan. Call today for no-cost, personalized assistance: 1-800-991-4407 / TTY 711 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

Overview of Medicare Enrollment Periods

Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) — The seven-month period surrounding an individual’s 65th birthday, during which they’re eligible to enroll in Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage Plans, and Medicare Supplement Plans. Learn more

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) — A yearly enrollment period that occurs from October 15 to December 7. Individuals can enroll in or switch Medicare plans. Learn more

Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP) — From January 1 to March 31, Medicare Advantage Plan members can make one change between Medicare Advantage Plans or switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare only.

Medicare Special Enrollment Period (SEP) — An enrollment period that depends on specific conditions, such as losing health coverage or being affected by a declared emergency like a hurricane or earthquake. Learn more