What You Need to Know About the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period

By: Sierra Visser

November 29, 2022

Elderly couple talk to healthcare provider

Don’t worry, there’s still time to enroll in a Medicare plan! You’ve probably noticed all the advertisements lately encouraging Medicare beneficiaries to enroll before AEP ends on Dec. 7. But what is AEP, and how can you ensure the best decision for Medicare enrollment?

If you’ve been asking yourself this same question, you’re in the right place. Here we’ll explore some of the most important things you need to know before you choose your Medicare plan for 2023.

What is AEP?

AEP stands for Annual Enrollment Period, and for Medicare this takes place Oct. 15 – Dec. 7 every year. You might hear people refer to AEP as Open Enrollment or the Fall Enrollment Period. All Medicare beneficiaries can enroll during this time, and their new policy will take effect on Jan. 1 of the following year.

If you’re already enrolled in Medicare Parts A & B, you can use AEP to enroll in a Medicare Supplemental or Advantage Plan. You can also choose to drop your Supplement or Advantage Plan and revert to traditional Medicare.

Medicare Advantage vs Medicare Supplement

Medigap, Part C, Advantage Plans, oh my! You're not alone if you’ve had difficulty keeping all these options straight. Many people use these terms interchangeably, which can make this process even more confusing. Below is a quick and easy reference on the two types of Medicare plans that can lower your out-of-pocket costs as a Medicare beneficiary:

Medicare Advantage

  • Also referred to as Medicare Part C
  • Replaces traditional Medicare
  • Healthcare services are billed to the Advantage Plan – except for COVID vaccines and over-the-counter tests, or while under hospice care
  • Out-of-pocket costs will vary according to benefits of the specific Medicare Advantage Plan

Medicare Supplement

  • Also referred to as MediGap or Med Supp
  • Supplements traditional Medicare
  • Healthcare services are billed to Medicare first, and to the Supplement Plan second
  • Out-of-pocket costs will be calculated based on the balance after payments from Medicare and the Supplement Plan

Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Part C are one and the same. This type of plan replaces Medicare. So, while you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, healthcare professionals send their bills to that plan instead of to Medicare itself (except for COVID vaccines and over-the-counter tests, or while you’re under hospice care). Your out-of-pocket costs will vary according to the benefits on your specific Medicare Advantage Plan.

When choosing your Part C policy, keep in mind the only Medicare Advantage Plan that Renown accepts is Senior Care Plus, administered by Hometown Health.

Alternatively, Medicare Supplement Plans and MediGap plans are also one and the same. Just like the label suggests, these plans are meant to supplement Medicare. Healthcare professionals bill Medicare first and bill the supplemental plan second. Your out-of-pocket costs will be calculated based on the balance after payments from Medicare and your Supplement Plan.

What if I miss AEP?

If you’re reading this after Dec. 7 and you want to change your Medicare policy, you might still have a chance to do so before the next AEP.

Medicare’s next enrollment is the Open Enrollment Period, or OEP, which takes place Jan. 1 – March 31 every year. If you are already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Part C, you can use OEP to make a single plan change, and your new policy will take effect on the first day of the following month. What this means is if you feel you the choice you made during AEP is not right for you, you can choose again during OEP.

After March 31, you’ll be set in your Medicare policy for the remainder of the calendar year unless you have a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). There are many Qualifying Life Events (QLE) that could cause you to be eligible for an SEP, so check with your insurance provider if you think you qualify.

Medicare can be complicated – but Renown Health and Senior Care Plus want to make understanding your Medicare options easy. Visit SeniorCarePlus.com to register to attend a benefits meeting or call 775-982-3158 to learn more.