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Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP)

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Medicare OEP 2019Medicare is restoring the Open Enrollment Period (OEP) for insurance changes. This enrollment window begins each year on January 1st and goes through March 31st. You will have options if you find yourself in a Medicare plan that does not meet your needs.

This window is much different than the Annual Election Period (AEP) that runs from October 15th through December 7th. There are only a few changes consumers can make during OEP, but it’s very important to know your options.

This enrollment period existed once before and Medicare officials have brought it back to help consumers find the insurance coverage that best suits their needs. There are only a couple of changes that can be made, so you don’t want to count on the OEP window for everything. It’s still very important that you make wise decisions during the AEP window in the fall.

Changes That Can Be Made During OEP

This new(ish) window primarily applies to Medicare Advantage plans – and they must be “like plans.” In other words, you would not be able to switch from a MAPD (Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug) plan to a MA (Medicare Advantage) plan because the MA plan does not offer prescription drug coverage and is therefore not the same.

These are the changes you can make during OEP:

  • MAPD to MAPD Plan
  • MA Only to MA Only Plan
  • Original Medicare to MA Only Plan (and vice versa)
  • Original Medicare and Part D drug plan to MAPD Plan (and vice versa)

Unlike the AEP window in the fall, you are only allowed one change during OEP in the winter. Your change will become effective the first of the next month. For example, if you made a coverage change in January, then it would become effective February 1st.

Part D Prescription Drug Coverage Changes

It’s very important to know you can’t change your Stand Alone Prescription Part D Drug plan during OEP. That window for Stand Alone Part D plan changes only applies to AEP. If you own a Part D drug plan, it’s usually because you have paired it with a Medicare supplement.

Many consumers discover (too late) that they’re drug plan changed year over year. If you do not shop for new coverage during the Annual Election Period (AEP) in the fall, then the OEP window is of no help. It’s very important to work with your agent and price your stand alone drug plan during the fall.

However, if your Part D plan is tied to a MAPD (Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug) policy, then you do have options. You can shop (one-time) for a new MAPD plan, or move back to Original Medicare and buy a Stand Alone Part D plan – and perhaps a Medicare supplement too.

And if you really want out of your Stand Alone Part D plan, you could move to a MAPD plan, but you would no longer be on Original Medicare and you would not be able to keep your Medicare supplement policy if you had one.

What About Medicare Supplement Insurance?

The new OEP window has little bearing on Medicare supplement insurance. In most states, there is no Open Enrollment for Medicare Supplement plans. However, if you’re dropping a MA or MAPD plan during the OEP window, you can apply for Medicare supplement insurance.

Depending on your circumstances, medical underwriting may be required, however. You could be turned down for poor health. You may want to secure approval for a Supplement (like Plans F, G or N) before making any changes.

What you see with these windows is they are somewhat strict. The government is careful to allow only for specific changes to your Medicare insurance. If you’re not sure you really want to talk with an expert. You can find yourself in a plan that does not suit your budget or needs.

Contact Us To Discuss Your Options

We understand that all of this can be somewhat confusing. Having back-to-back enrollment windows in the fall and the winter is a lot to ask. That’s why it’s so important to work with a knowledgeable, independent Medicare insurance broker.

Remember OEP runs from January 1st thru March 31st and has some limitations to what can and can’t be done.

Here at Hyers and Associates, we work extensively with Medicare supplements, Advantage plans, and Part D drug policies. Contact us today and we will help you navigate the Medicare maze.

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Category: Medicare Advantage

Last updated on August 11th, 2020