Healthcare Educators


Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period and Annual Enrollment Period: What’s the Difference?

by | Jan 17, 2024

You may have taken advantage of Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) last fall to make changes to your Medicare coverage. Now, you are hearing about Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period (OEP) and are wondering if you should be participating in that, too. There are a few things you need to know about OEP and how it differs from AEP.

What is OEP?

OEP runs from January 1 through March 31 every year. Unlike AEP, it is only for Medicare beneficiaries currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. The primary reason OEP exists is to allow Medicare Advantage enrollees to find coverage that better fits their needs.

What changes can I make during OEP?

During this time period, you can:

  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare. If you return to Original Medicare during this enrollment period, you can also join a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.

Any changes will be effective from the first of the following month.

Should I consider making a change during OEP?

If you are satisfied with your current Medicare Advantage plan, you don’t need to take any action. Your current plan will remain in effect with no benefit changes for the rest of 2024.

You may want to consider switching your coverage if you did not fully understand your current plan’s benefits or out-of-pocket expenses when you enrolled and now realize the plan was not the right choice for you. Another reason for changing could be that your healthcare needs have changed and you need more comprehensive health benefits, better prescription drug coverage, or a different provider network.

What if I don’t make a change during OEP?

If you want to make a change but don’t make it during OEP, you will need to keep your current plan until AEP begins again in October. In this case, the change won’t be effective until January 1, 2025. The exception is if you qualify for one of Medicare’s special enrollment periods, which allow for changes to your Medicare coverage based on certain life events.

What if I can’t afford my Medicare coverage?

If you are considering changing plans because you can’t afford your coverage, know that there are federal and state programs available to help. Medicare beneficiaries with limited income and resources may qualify for financial assistance through Medicare Savings Programs, Extra Help, and your state’s pharmacy assistance program.

For questions about your Medicare coverage, the experienced team at Healthcare Educators is here to help. Contact us today.