Medicare Advantage Election Periods
Generally, you can only enroll in, switch, or dis-enroll from a Medicare Advantage plan during specific times of the year. Outside of when you first become eligible to enroll, and election periods that happen annually, your opportunities to make changes to your health coverage may be limited. This article will explain more about the election and disenrollment periods associated with Medicare Advantage plans.
Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP)
You’re first eligible to enroll in Medicare Advantage during your Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP). For most people, this period occurs at the same time as their Initial Enrollment Period for Original Medicare, Part A and Part B. In this case, if you’re eligible when you turn 65, you can sign up during the 7-month period that begins 3 months before the month you turn 65, the month you turn 65, and ends 3 months after the month you turn 65.
For example, Mr. Smith’s 65th birthday is July 11th of this year. He is eligible for Medicare Part A and Part B beginning July 1st and has decided to enroll in Part B beginning on July 1st. His ICEP begins on April 1st and ends on October 31st.
Remember, to be eligible to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you must:
- Have Medicare Part A and be enrolled in Part B, provided that you will be entitled to receive services under Medicare Part A and Part B as of the effective date of coverage under the plan.
- Permanently reside in the service area of the Medicare Advantage plan
- Not have been medically determined to have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) prior to completing the enrollment request.
Annual Election Period
During the Annual Election Period (AEP), Medicare Advantage-eligible individuals may enroll in or dis-enroll from a Medicare Advantage plan. The AEP runs from October 15th through December 7th each year. It is the one enrollment period that occurs each year. The AEP is also referred to as the Fall Open Enrollment in Medicare publications and websites. Outside of this period, you may be more limited in the types of changes you can make. Any plan selections made during AEP will be effective on January 1st.
Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period
Medicare Advantage plan enrollees have an annual opportunity to dis-enroll from their plan and return to Original Medicare between January 1st and February 14th every year. The effective date of a disenrollment request made during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period will be the first of the month following the Medicare Advantage Plan’s receipt of the disenrollment request. A request made in January will be effective February 1st, and a request made in February will be effective March 1st. The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period does not provide an opportunity to join or switch Medicare Advantage plans.
Regardless of whether the Medicare Advantage plan included Part D drug coverage, Medicare Advantage enrollees using the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period are eligible to enroll in a stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan during the same time frame.
Special Election Periods
In addition, you may be able to change your Medicare Advantage coverage by qualifying for a Special Election Period (SEP). This lets you enroll in, switch, or disenroll from plans without waiting for the Annual Election Period or the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period that occurs each year. Some situations that may qualify you for a Special Election Period include, but aren’t limited to:
- Move out of your plan’s service area.
- Qualify for the Low-Income Subsidy (Extra Help) program.
- Have full Medicaid coverage and Medicare.
- Live in a nursing home, skilled nursing facility, or rehabilitation hospital.
Reviewing your Medicare options
If you would like to enroll in a different Medicare Advantage plan during the next Annual Election Period, it is a good idea to review all available plan options in your area to find one that best suits your needs. As you can see, when you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, the timing is important. Health Enroller agents can help you understand your options and enroll you in a plan. Health Enroller agents are always available for a phone discussion about plans that could work for you or click here to start comparing Medicare Advantage plans now.