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Medicare Advantage open enrollment period (MAOEP)

What is the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period?

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During the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period (MAOEP) – which runs from January 1 to March 31 – Medicare Advantage enrollees can switch to Original Medicare or to a different Medicare Advantage plan from the one they are currently enrolled in. The ability to switch plans during the MAOEP is limited to one plan change per year.

When Medicare Advantage enrollees switch to Original Medicare during the MAOEP, they’re also eligible to purchase a Part D Prescription Drug Plan. But a person who has Part D coverage with Original Medicare cannot use the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period to switch to a different Part D plan, since this window only applies to Medicare Advantage enrollees.

A person switching from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare during the MAOEP will not necessarily have guaranteed-issue access to a Medigap plan to supplement the Original Medicare coverage. It will depend on how long the person had Medicare Advantage, what state they’re in, and whether they qualify for any of the federal guaranteed-issue rights for Medigap plans.

The MAOEP gives enrollees an opportunity make a different plan choice if the Advantage plan they picked during the annual election period (October 15 to December 7) doesn’t end up meeting their needs. It’s also a chance for a person to make a plan change if they skipped the fall enrollment window, let their Advantage plan auto-renew, and then found out early in the new year that the benefits had changed and the plan would no longer meet their needs.

But it’s important to think of the MAOEP as a back-up rather than a primary plan change window. Ideally, it’s best to make any plan changes during the fall election period, so that the new plan takes effect January 1. If you use the MAOEP, your new plan will take effect in February, March, or April, depending on when you sign up. At that point, you’ll start over with a new deductible and out-of-pocket maximum for the new plan. Any out-of-pocket costs you paid while covered by your old plan in the early weeks or months of the year will not count towards your out-of-pocket responsibilities under the new plan.

So, if you want to make a plan change, carefully considering your plan options during the fall election period and having your new plan start January 1 is the best way to minimize your total out-of-pocket costs for the calendar year.