The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is here! If you’re new to the Medicare program or haven’t heard of the AEP before, this may seem like a whirlwind. What is the AEP, and when does it open and close? Most importantly, who can help you make a plan choice?

What is the Annual Enrollment Period?

The Annual Enrollment Period runs from October 15 to December 7 every year. This is your chance to make changes to your Medicare insurance plan!

During AEP you can:

  • Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan if you have Original Medicare (Parts A and B).
  • Return to Original Medicare from a Medicare Advantage plan by not renewing for the next calendar year.
  • Move from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
  • Enroll in a Medicare Part D plan.
  • Switch from one Part D plan to another.
  • Drop your Part D plan completely.

Unless your Initial Election Period (IEP) coincides with this 54-day period, you cannot use the AEP to sign up for Original Medicare for the first time.

Information about the next year’s health and drug plans become available each October, and we recommend working with a licensed sales agent to make sense of your current coverage and future options. Independent, licensed agents cannot charge you for their services and are required to represent your best interests.

Shop & Enroll is a great way to connect with a licensed sales agent who can help you review your plan materials like the Evidence of Coverage or Annual Notice of Change forms. Use an orange Find Your Plan link on this site to start today.

If your plan is changing or you weren’t satisfied with your coverage, you may be interested in changing your plan. Comparing different plans can also help you save money or receive coverage that better fits you. Any coverage changes you make go into effect January 1 of the following year.

When researching AEP, you may see it called a few different names. Don’t worry, they’re all referring to the same period of time. Alternative AEP names you might hear include:

  • Annual Election Period
  • Annual Coordinated Election Period
  • Open Enrollment Period (OEP)
  • Fall Open Enrollment Season

Can I Make Changes Outside of the AEP?

Once the Annual Enrollment Period ends, you may still be able to make changes to your coverage. For example, January 1 to March 31 is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. During this time, you may be able to make a one-time switch to a new Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan or return to Original Medicare without incurring a penalty.

If any number of special circumstances apply to you, you may make changes to your Medicare Advantage and Part D coverage by using a Special Election Period (SEP).

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With AEP just beginning, we recommend one great way you can learn more about plans in your area — the Shop & Enroll Plan Finder. This tool can show you Medicare insurance plans offered in your area and connect you with an agent who can help you. Get started by clicking any orange Find Your Plan link today!

Further Reading

Medicare Interactive — Six things to know about Fall Open Enrollment