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Medicare Annual Enrollment Period FAQs

Answering questions about Medicare is part of how we make Medicare easy. This article covers frequently asked questions about Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), also known as Medicare Open Enrollment.

Medicare-Annual-Enrollment-Period-FAQs
What is AEP?

AEP is a yearly time period during which Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their Medicare coverage, such as adding, dropping, or switching Medicare plans.

When is AEP?

The Annual Enrollment Period occurs from October 15 to December 7 each year.

Do I have to change my coverage during AEP?

No. Individuals are not required to make changes during AEP. It is a time for optional changes, such as enrolling in a plan that is a better fit for you.

However, if you think you may want to change your coverage, AEP is the ideal time to do so. Enrolling in a new plan outside of AEP is subject to special enrollment circumstances, and you may end up stuck in a plan you don’t want.

How do I enroll in a plan during AEP?

If you find a Medicare plan that is a good fit for you, there are several ways to enroll during AEP.

If you’re a do-it-yourself type, you may prefer to enroll online, like through our convenient portal.

If you are not sure which plan you want to choose, or want a little more guidance through the process, you may want to enroll through an insurance agent. Many insurance agents represent only one company and might not be able to assist you in considering all of your options. Our licensed agents represent a number of respected carriers and can help you in finding, evaluating, and enrolling in plans in your area.

What’s the difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage?

Original Medicare -- the coverage offered by the federal government -- is broken into two parts: Part A and Part B. Part A is generally premium-free, and includes hospital coverage. Part B has a set monthly premium and includes most medically-necessary services and equipment.

Medicare Advantage plans -- sometimes called Part C -- are offered by private companies in contract with the federal government. These plans include the coverage provided under Medicare Parts A and B, and generally add other benefits, like vision, dental, hearing, or prescription drug coverage. Some of these plans require premiums, but some have $0 premiums, copays, and deductibles. Individuals who enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan do continue to pay their Part B premiums.

Can I change my Medicare plan outside of AEP?

Maybe. Individuals can almost always drop a Medicare Advantage, Supplement, or Prescription Drug plan, but there are limited opportunities to join those plans outside of AEP. Individuals can join a plan if they meet Special Enrollment Period criteria, such as moving outside a plan’s coverage area, losing coverage, and more. If you anticipate wanting to change coverage, AEP is likely the best time to do so.

Get Medicare or AEP Help

If you have more questions about Medicare plans or enrollment periods, our Medicare advocates are happy to help. Call for a no-cost consultation at 1-800-991-4407 / TTY 711, 10 AM to 9 PM ET, Monday through Friday.