The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, although new to some Medicare beneficiaries, has been around before. In 2011, the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period was altered and changed to the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period. The disenrollment period took the open enrollment period's place from 2011 until 2018.
In 2019, the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period reappeared. Several Medicare beneficiaries took advantage of this extra enrollment period, and even more beneficiaries are expected to use this period in 2020.
The differences between the disenrollment and open enrollment periods
The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP) ran from January 1st through February 14th. Within those one and a half months, Medicare beneficiaries who were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan were able to leave the plan and return to Original Medicare.
Beneficiaries who dropped their Medicare Advantage plans during this time would have to enroll in a stand-alone Part D plan before February 14th. While beneficiaries could also apply for a new Medigap plan, they wouldn't be guaranteed approval.
The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MAOEP) is similar to the MADP but with additional options. During the MAOEP, Medicare Advantage beneficiaries can do everything they could do during the MADP. However, now they can switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another as well. The MAOEP also lasts longer than the MADP. The MAOEP runs from January 1st through March 31st.
How the MAOEP compares to other enrollment periods
Just like the MAOEP, the General Enrollment Period (GEP) runs from January 1st through March 31st each year. However, these two periods have nothing to do with each other. The GEP is the enrollment period for Medicare Part A and Part B for beneficiaries who missed their initial enrollment period.
Medicare beneficiaries can think of the MAOEP as the enrollment period that extends part of the Annual Election Period (AEP). The AEP runs from October 15th through December 7th each year. During this period, Medicare beneficiaries can enroll in, change, or drop both Medicare Advantage plans and Part D plans.
The MAOEP can be used by either Medicare Advantage beneficiaries who missed the AEP and didn't have time to switch or drop their plans, or beneficiaries who enrolled in one Medicare Advantage plan during the AEP and in the new year find out they don't like it as much as they thought they would. For example, if a beneficiary switches Medicare Advantage plans during the AEP, and in February decides he wants to switch back to his old plan, he can do so during the MAOEP.
What beneficiaries can't do during the MAOEP
Unlike the AEP, the MAOEP isn't for going from one Part D plan to another or going from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan. The MAOEP is only for going from one Medicare Advantage plan to another or dropping it and getting a new Part D plan. Therefore, if a beneficiary doesn't have a Medicare Advantage plan or has one but doesn't want to drop it, then the beneficiary can't get a new Part D plan or change to a different one at this time.
Another thing the MAOEP isn't for is a free pass to a new Medigap plan. Most states require beneficiaries to go through medical underwriting when applying for a Medigap plan. However, every beneficiary gets a one-time six-month window to enroll in any Medigap plan without going through underwriting. After this initial window, most beneficiaries will have to answer health questions when applying for a new Medigap plan.
The MAOEP does not supply a Medicare beneficiary with a second chance to get a Medigap plan without having to answer health questions. Therefore, if a beneficiary has a Medicare Advantage plan that he wants to drop during the MAOEP and return to Original Medicare with a Medigap plan, he will most likely have to answer health questions for the Medigap plan. Based on his answers, he could be turned down for pre-existing conditions.
In 2020, several Medicare beneficiaries around the country are expected to take advantage of the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. As long as they remember these details about this special period, they will be prepared.
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