What Is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?
The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP) is the time of year you can switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or drop your current one and go back to Original Medicare.
If you’re unhappy with your current Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll want to take advantage of this special enrollment period!
What Is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?
The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, also called MA OEP or MAOEP, lasts from January 1-March 31 each year.
What Is Original Medicare?
Original Medicare refers to Medicare Parts A and B. Together, Medicare Parts A and B provide your hospital and medical insurance.
Who Is Typically Using the MA OEP?
Most people who utilize the MA OEP do so because they signed up for a Medicare Advantage plan during the fall Medicare Annual Enrollment Period and realized they don’t like it!
That’s what this window of time is for – those who chose a Medicare Advantage plan and didn’t realize until after they were signed up that it’s just not the right plan for them.
What Can’t You Do During the MA OEP?
While you can switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan or drop it and go back to Original Medicare, you can’t do any of the following as part of the MA OEP:
- Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
- Join a Medicare Part D drug plan if you're in Original Medicare
- Switch from one Medicare Part D drug plan to another if you're in Original Medicare
Remember that this window of time is only for those who want to get out of their current Medicare Advantage plan.
Unless you qualify for a different enrollment period, such as a Special Enrollment Period, you won’t be able to join a Medicare Part D drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan, particularly if you’re on Original Medicare.
What Happened to the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period?
In the past, we had the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period. It had the same rules as the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, but it had a different timeframe of January 1-February 14.
The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period is gone and has replaced with the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, which has the extended timeframe of January 1-March 31.
Why Would I Want to Drop or Switch Medicare Advantage Plans?
The purpose of the MA OEP is to allow you to drop or switch your current Medicare Advantage plan.
Many people who want to make a significant change like this do so because of a couple of reasons:
- They realized their favorite doctor isn’t in the plan’s network.
- Their out-of-pocket costs are higher than they expected.
- The included drug coverage doesn’t cover their drugs as they expected.
You can read more about these reasons in-depth here: How to Get Out of a Medicare Advantage Plan
Are There Other Times of Year I Can Get Out of My Medicare Advantage Plan?
Besides the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period from January 1-March 31, there are three other times during the year that you can get out of your current Medicare Advantage Plan.
- During the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period from October 15-December 7.
- By using your “trial right,” or up to 1 year after you sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan during your open enrollment period. Note: this only applies if you chose Medicare Advantage when you were first eligible for Medicare Part A at age 65.
- During a Special Enrollment Period, which can apply if you move, you lose your current coverage for some reason, or the plan changes its contract with Medicare.
You can read more about those three additional opportunities here.
What About Getting Out of a Medicare MSA Plan?
You cannot switch or drop a Medicare MSA plan during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. Yes, the Medicare MSA is technically a Medicare Advantage product, but it has different rules about enrollment and disenrollment.
Except for rare cases, there is only one time you can disenroll from a Medicare MSA: during Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period from October 15-December 7.
Unfamiliar with the Medicare MSA? Learn more here: How Do Medicare MSA Plans Work, and Do I Need One?
Is Medigap Better Than Medicare Advantage?
If you’re not sure whether you should drop your Medicare Advantage plan and consider a Medigap plan, it’s essential to understand how they’re different.
For most individuals, a Medigap plan is their top choice because it’s a sure thing. You know exactly how much you’ll pay each year, and it’s predictable.
But a growing number of people prefer to “pay as they go,” which is the main appeal of a Medicare Advantage plan. These plans often have low or even $0 monthly premiums, but you pay each time you need care.
There’s a chance you might pay less with a Medicare Advantage plan, especially if you’re healthy, but there’s also a chance that you’d end up paying a lot more, up to your out of pocket maximum.
Besides the cost difference, Medicare Advantage plans have networks, similar to what you may have been used to with employer group plans. However, these networks can be pretty limited, especially if you live in a smaller city. Medigap plans do not have networks – you can see any doctor that accepts Medicare assignment (over 90% of all doctors).
If you’re not sure which plan is right for you, our agents here at Medicare Allies can help you weigh the pros and cons of Medicare Advantage vs. Medigap. Request a free Medicare Planner using the link below, or give us a call at 833-801-7999!
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