Over the years there have been many different terms used to describe the time of the year Medicare Beneficiaries can add, change, or drop their Medicare Advantage or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. The two main acronyms that agents refer to are the AEP and the OEP, which have been used interchangeably over the years, but it’s important to note they both have very separate definitions.
The AEP stands for Annual Election (or Enrollment) Period. The Annual Election Period is October 15th – December 7th and is the one time of the year that Medicare Beneficiaries can switch their Medicare Advantage, or Part D plans, or return to Original Medicare. Please note that during this time the Medicare Beneficiary can switch Medicare Advantage or Part D plans as much as they want until they decide on their new coverage effective January 1st. To find out more information on the AEP click here to review the Medicare Advantage – The Basics.
The OEP stands for Open Enrollment Period. Typically agents hear “OEP” and think of the guaranteed issue period in which someone is new to Medicare can purchase a Medicare Supplement without underwriting. But in this context the OEP is actually Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. Beginning in 2019 the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period will start January 1st – March 31st. During this time the Medicare beneficiary has an opportunity to:
- Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan
- Drop their Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare Part A and Part B
- Sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan (only if the beneficiary returned to Original Medicare)
- Drop the stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan
The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period replaced what was previously known as the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period that ran from January 1st to February 14th. The Disenrollment Period is where clients had an opportunity to switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare and enroll in a Part D Prescription Drug plan.
Outside of the Annual Election Period (AEP), the OEP is also available for those new to Medicare that enroll when they are 65 or obtain their Part B. The OEP will run for the 1st month with an additional 2 months. So for example if a Medicare Beneficiary enrolls in a Medicare Advantage plan effective July 1st then their OEP will be from July 1st – September 30th.
Hopefully this gives you some clarification on the AEP vs the OEP. For more detailed information about Election Periods check out this link to the Medicare Plan Enrollment/Election Periods Job Aid for Agents.
Any questions or comments? Feel free to reach out to us!
This concludes the 5-Part Series on Medicare Advantage and I hope you found this helpful! If you didn’t get a chance to check out the full series then click on the links below to our previous articles.
– updated October 2019 –