Medicare Annual Election Period: What You Should Know

The Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP), or Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP), has arrived. With approximately 25 to 30 percent of people with MS enrolled in Medicare, it’s important to be equipped with useful information to pick a plan that works best for you.

The AEP begins on October 15 each year. From there, you have until December 7 to make changes to your plan. Any changes you make during the Annual Election Period won’t take effect until on January 1, 2019. After then, you can’t make changes to your plan unless there is a special circumstance. Here are some general things to keep in mind during this period.

Changes You Can Make During the Annual Election Period

The two type of plans the Annual Election covers:

1. Medicare Advantage plans 

The changes you can make involving Medicare Advantage plans are:
  • Transition from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Change from your current Medicare Advantage plan to a new one
  • Transition from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare
2. Stand-alone Part D drug plans.

The changes you can make regarding stand-alone Part D drug plans are:
  • Add a stand-alone Part D drug plan to your Original Medicare
  • Change from your current stand-alone Part D drug plan to a new one
  • Drop your stand-alone Part D drug plan and enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that has a Part D drug plan included

The Annual Election Period isn’t for Medigap

The biggest misconception about the Annual Election Period is that you can use it to enroll in a new Medigap plan without having to answer health questions. This is not the case. In most states, the only time you can enroll in a Medigap plan without going through medical underwriting is if you’re in your initial 6-month Medigap open enrollment window, or if you have a guaranteed issue period because you are transitioning from large employer health coverage over to Medicare as your primary coverage.

You can apply to change to a different Medigap company’s plan anytime throughout the year. There is no need to wait for the AEP because it nothing to do with making changes to Medigap plans.

Also, keep in mind that Medigap plans benefits do not change from year to year. Your Medigap plan will have the same coverage guidelines from year to year. However, Medigap monthly premiums do change. You should get a notice from your carrier prior to your plan’s anniversary date of how much your premium will increase.

Review Your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC).

Each year, insurance carriers will send out a letter to every Medicare Advantage and Part D policyholder. This letter is called your Annual Notice of Change, or ANOC.

Your ANOC is possibly the most important item of the Fall Annual Election Period. The ANOC states what changes your carrier plans to make to your current plan for the following year, like the premium, formulary, copays, deductibles and benefits.

When you receive your ANOC letter, review the changes and decide whether or not you would like to keep your current plan. Some examples of changes your plan could make that might make you want to consider changing plans are:
  • Your plan won’t be covering one of your important drugs next year
  • Your doctor will no longer be in network with your Medicare Advantage plan
  • Your plan’s monthly premium increase is too high, or copays are going up
Your ANOC will compare the current year’s coverage and prices next to the upcoming year’s changes so that you can easily tell what is changing.

Plan Finder Tool

Medicare’s website has a helpful tool that can assist you in researching Medicare Advantage and Part D drug plans. Simply go to and click on “Find Health & Drug Plans.”

From there, enter your ZIP code and click “Find Plans.” The site will guide you through a few specific questions so that it can show you plans you might be interested in.  Once you have landed on the page with the available plans, you will be able to click on each individual plan to see the details.

Using this tool can help you compare your current plan with other available plans out there. Then, you will be able to make an informed decision about your other plan options. If you find a plan you like better, be sure to apply before the Annual Election Period ends on December 7.

To learn more about choosing individual insurance, visit our website or call an MS Navigator at 1-800-344-4867
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Danielle Roberts

Danielle Roberts is a Medicare insurance expert from Fort Worth, TX. She and her team help new Medicare beneficiaries across the nation learn their benefits and select suitable supplemental coverage. You can learn more about her work and Medicare’s coverage by clicking here.