What is the Medicare Annual Election Period?

The Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP), which occurs every fall and lasts for 8 weeks, allows Medicare beneficiaries to make changes to their Medicare Advantage and/or Part D drug plans.

2024 Medicare Annual Enrollment Period

AEP is every October 15 through December 7 each year. As mentioned above, this is the time when people who have MAPD or PDP plans can make changes to their plan for the upcoming year. During this period, individuals can switch from one Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug plan to another, drop coverage altogether, initiate a new plan, and more. All changes made during the Annual Election Period will take effect on January 1 of the following year.

Many people think that they must also make changes to their Supplement Plans during this time. This is not true. There is NO benefit to making changes to your Supplement Plan UNLESS you live in a state with special rules such as the Birthday Rule or Anniversary Rules. If your birthday or contract anniversary falls during AEP and you live in a state with these rules, then you should review your Supplement plan at that time. Otherwise, we recommend that you review your Supplement Plan during your birthday month, or January if your birthday is during AEP.

Here’s why: Insurance agents who specialize in Medicare are extremely busy during AEP. Since there is no special benefit to reviewing your plan during AEP, (with the exceptions mentioned above), and you still must pass medical underwriting to make a change, why not talk with your agent about this when they are more relaxed and have more time to spend with you?

Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)

One way to help you determine if you need to make any changes is by looking through your annual notice of change, or ANOC. Providers start sending out ANOCs in September. Watch out for this document and take some time to review it. It will tell you if the premium is changing or if your copays, drug formulary, or pharmacy networks are changing.

The Annual Notice of Change displays a comparison of the plan’s changes from one year to the next. This makes it simple to compare changes to coverage.

Also, in California, your Medicare Advantage ANOC may give you special rights so be sure to hang on to it.

What should I consider During Medicare Annual Election Period?

1. Review any changes in your plan or costs and understand their impact on you.

Has the cost on your plan increased? Have there been any changes to your plan or copays? Changes in your plan and costs from the previous year may have a significant impact on your coverage. If your plan has made significant changes, it may be time to shop for a new plan.

2. Check to see if your prescription drug coverage has changed.

It is especially important to review your drug plan during this time. Drug plans often make changes that directly affect your pocketbook. Confirm that your medications are still covered and check for any changes in copays or drug tiers. Also, be sure your preferred pharmacy is still covered as a part of your plan’s pharmacy network. We send out a request in September for our clients to update their medications with us. That way, starting October 1st, we can start doing an analysis to see which drug plan will save you the most money.

3. Is your doctor still in network?

Of course, you only need to check this if you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, because there are no networks for Medicare Supplement Plans. Doctors, hospitals, and other health providers can move in and out of networks, at any time of the year (not just AEP). Make sure that the providers you need are still covered by your health plan.

4. Your current healthcare needs

Have you been diagnosed with a disease where you prefer a different level of care? When experiencing a major health change, like cancer, it is important to verify if the doctors and medical facilities that are necessary for your treatment are covered under your current insurance plan.

5. Are you happy with your plan?

While plan costs are a significant factor to consider, they should not be the only consideration. Are you happy with your plan’s customer service? Are you able to seek medical care from your preferred healthcare providers? Is your plan suitable for your needs?

What Changes Can I Make During Medicare Annual Enrollment 2024?

You can check your plan during the AEP and make changes if you’d like. Below are the changes you can make:

  • Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare (Parts A & B). (You can apply for a Medicare Supplement Plan but you’ll have to pass medical underwriting unless you fall into special circumstances).
  • Enroll in, leave, or change your Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D)
  • Switch from Traditional Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Do nothing and your current coverage will automatically renew in 2024

What if I have a Medicare Supplement Plan (Medigap)

As mentioned above, many people often think that they need to make changes to their Medigap plan during AEP. We’ve already discussed this, but is there a reason you should make changes during this time period?

The answer is generally NO.

Medigap plans offer benefits that are federally standardized and remain consistent each year, unlike Part D and MAPD plans. If you currently have a Medigap plan, your plan won’t change!

There is no special reason to review Medigap plans during AEP UNLESS you want to move to a Medicare Advantage Plan. You can change a Medigap plan at any time of the year but we normally review these plans with our clients during their birthday month.

The Annual Election Period does not give you any special benefit for Supplement Plans. You’ll still have to answer questions about your health.

For this reason, we ask that you make your appointment for your Medigap plan outside of the AEP. This is so that we can provide longer meetings with our existing clients when we aren’t so “rushed” during the AEP season.

However, if you live in a “birthday rule” state, and your birthday falls during October, November, or December, we will review your Medigap plan during AEP.

California, Idaho, Illinois, Nevada, and Oregon, have a law called the “Birthday rule” which allows people who have a Medigap Plan to make a change within a certain time period (i.e. 60 days) of their birthday without Medical Underwriting.

Anniversary Rule states include Missouri.

Connecticut, Maryland, Maine New York, and Washington State residents can move from one plan to another any time throughout the year.

Bottom Line

  • The annual election period is from October 15th to December 7th.
  • During this time, you can enroll, disenroll, or switch your Medicare Advantage plan or Part D plan
  • The annual election period is typically not a time to review or enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan (aka Medigap)