This is big news! The Medicare Open Enrollment is back. Not to be confused with the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), Open Enrollment Period (OEP) was shelved a decade ago. Over the last 20 years, it’s started, stopped, started, then stopped again.
Now, not only will Medicare beneficiaries have the AEP to make Medicare plan choices, but they will also have an additional timeframe from January through March to make changes to their coverage.
On April 2, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final ruling that will result in some updates for Medicare Advantage (also known as MAPD) plans, as well as to the Medicare Part D prescription drug (also known as PDP) program.
Today, Medicare’s Annual Election Period, or AEP, goes from October 15th to December 7th each year. During this timeframe, those who are enrolled in Medicare are allowed to make changes to their plans – which include switching from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare or making a move from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
The new rules include the re-introduction of a “new” open enrollment period (or OEP). This means in 2019, the enrollment period will run from January 1st to March 31st, and during this timeframe, Medicare Advantage enrollees will be allowed to dis-enroll from their current plan and move to a different Medicare Advantage plan. Or, they can move back over to Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and B) essentially dropping their MAPD plan by enrolling in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan(PDP).
So what is the difference between AEP and OEP? The OEP is not an extension of the AEP, which will still occur between October 15th and December 7th each year. Additionally, the OEP does not provide the same flexibility as the AEP where you can make any changes you want.
The new regulations will provide Medicare enrollees an additional timeframe to decide how and where to obtain their benefits. Under these new rules, however, enrollees may only move to a differing Medicare Advantage plan one time.