Medicare AEP versus OEP: What’s the Difference?
Even for savvy clients, the enrollment process for Medicare can be confusing. One of the reasons for this is the multiple enrollment periods. The two most important time periods for both beneficiaries and agents to know the details of are the Open Enrollment Period (OEP) and the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). Let’s compare the two:
AEP vs OEP – Open Enrollment Period
This is the time during the year when anyone who is eligible for Medicare can enroll in, change coverage from, or unenroll from a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Medicare Part D (or prescription drug) plan. This is the time when beneficiaries can make choices about their Medicare coverage without restrictions. It usually runs from January 1st to March 31st each year. To be eligible to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during OEP.
AEP vs OEP – Annual Enrollment Period
This is the time period that is specifically designed for beneficiaries who are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans to change their coverage. It occurs from October 15th to December 7th each year. There are some restrictions as to what beneficiaries can do during this time period, but those actions that they can take include enrolling in a different Medicare Advantage plan, switching to or back to Original Medicare (parts A and B), or enrolling in a Medicare Part D plan (prescription drug coverage). In order to be qualified to do any of those things, the beneficiary must already be enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.
It is of vital importance that beneficiaries are aware of these timelines. If they are not aware of the time periods, missing OEP or AEP and failure to act can cause them to have lapses in their healthcare coverage or miss their opportunity to enroll in a different plan for the coming year.
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