First, let's say what the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA-OEP) is not: it is NOT the annual enrollment period (AEP) that runs from October 15th through December 7th each year. For more about AEP, see my post: All About AEP Now that we have that out of the way, when is MA-OEP, what is MA-OEP, and what Medicare plan changes can I make during MA-OEP?
MA-OEP starts January 1st and ends March 31st.
MA-OEP is an annual Medicare enrollment period that can be used ONLY by Medicare beneficiaries who are already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan (aka, Part C plan.)
MA-OEP: What Medicare Plan Changes Can I Make During MA-OEP?
If you are not already enrolled in a MA plan, the answer is simple: you can't change anything! However, if you are enrolled in a MA plan, you can make the following changes:
You can change from your current MA plan to another MA plan of your choosing
You can leave (disenroll) from your current MA plan and return to Original Medicare. If you do this, you can also enroll in a stand-alone prescription drug plan (Part D plan) so that you continue to have creditable drug coverage
Cautions, Caveats & Comments
Here are a few things to remember if you are thinking about using MA-OEP to change your Medicare coverage:
If you are thinking about switching from one MA plan to another MA plan, remember: the plan you enroll in during MA-OEP is likely to be the plan you will stay in for the rest of the year. Choose wisely. I say, "likely", only because there may be other special enrollment periods (SEPs) available to you, but don't count on making still another change unless you know for sure you will be able to do so. (For more about SEPs, see my post: Special Enrollment Periods)
If you are thinking about disenrolling from your current MA plan to return to Original Medicare with the intent also to enroll in a Medicare Supplement (MediGap plan) to cover the gaps in Original Medicare, I don't recommend you attempt this type of a transition without using a qualified agent to assist. If this type of a transition is not done correctly, you could find yourself on Original Medicare WITHOUT a Medicare Supplement and with no way to reenroll in a Medicare Advantage plan until the first of the next year. Contact me for assistance with this type of transition.
If you enroll in a stand-alone prescription drug plan, that will automatically disenroll you from your current MA plan.
Now You Know Why You're Still Seeing Medicare Ads on TV
Scammer Medicare agents and call centers know all about MA-OEP. (See my post: Avoid These Medicare Enrollment Scams) It is mostly during these open enrollment periods that you will be bombarded by Medicare ads on TV and through the mail. Their only goal? To get you to doubt the Medicare plan decision you already made and then call an 800 number or to provide contact information via an online form. Once you do that, you've given them what Medicare calls "permission to contact" and the calls and emails will never stop. The best way to avoid that happening to you? Simple: Don't call 1-800-ANYTHING and don't provide your contact information online. If you get an unsolicited call about Medicare, hang up. Work with a trusted local agent. Contact me anytime for assistance.