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Medicare Advantage Enrollment Periods

There are only certain periods of the year when you are able to enroll into a Medicare Advantage plan. These are broken down between Enrollment Periods and Special Election Periods (SEPs).

Medicare Advantage Enrollment Windows

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): 7-month time frame

When you start Medicare Part B, you’ll have an Initial Enrollment Period where you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan.

Annual Election Period (AEP): October 15 – December 7

For most enrollees, this is their only time frame to make a change to their Medicare Advantage plan for the next calendar year. Plans for the following year are released on October 1st, but enrollment applications cannot be accepted until October 15. All plans submitted during this period using the AEP enrollment period will start January 1st. If you are switching from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, there is no need to cancel your current coverage. The act of submitting one Medicare Advantage plan will replace the other automatically on whichever date you requested the new plan to begin.

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Open Enrollment Period (OEP): January 1 – March 31

Any Medicare Advantage enrollee can make the following changes during this time frame.

  • Switch to a new MA plan
  • Drop their MA plan
  • Enroll in a Medigap plan and a PDP plan

 

The new plan will start on the first of the coming month. So, if you submit a new plan to change in January, your new plan will start on February 1st and then you will no longer be able to use the OEP to change plans until the next year.

Medicare Advantage Enrollment Periods

Most Common Special Election Periods

Here are the most common Special Election Periods (SEPs):

Moving out of plan service area

One of the criteria to be eligible for a Medicare Advantage plan is to live within the plan’s service area. If you move down the street while staying in the service area of your plan, you don’t need to do anything. However, if you’re on a Medicare Advantage plan in Austin, Texas and you decide to move to Miami, Florida, this will put you out of the service area on your existing plan. This gives you an SEP which will allow you to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that has coverage in your new location, without you having to wait for one of the main enrollment periods.

Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) also known as “Extra Help”

If your income & assets are below a certain threshold, you may qualify for the Low-Income Subsidy program that helps cover Part D prescription drug plan premiums and co-pays. Another benefit of being eligible for this is that you also get an SEP to make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan outside of the main enrollment periods. Enrollees with LIS can make one change to their Medicare Advantage plan during each of the first quarters of the year: January-March, April-June, July-September.

Sylvia Gordon, aka Medicare Mama®, is an expert on all things Medicare and Social Security. She is the 2nd Generation here at The Medicare Family and has served on the advisory boards of major insurance companies like UnitedHealthcare®, Cigna, and Anthem. In her free time, she can be found taking care of her animals (dogs, goats, peacocks, chickens), and reading a good book. Learn More.
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