The Medicare Open Enrollment Period for 2016 has arrived. For a quick rundown on what you need to know, take a look at this basic Q&A.
- What is it?
Throughout the year, Medicare has different enrollment periods. The Open Enrollment Period, or OEP, is the timeframe during which Medicare beneficiaries (people with Medicare) can make changes to their Medicare plans.
- When is it?
OEP comes in the fall. This year’s OEP will take place October 15 through December 7, 2015. Any changes you make to your Medicare plan during this period go into effect on January 1, 2016.
- What changes can you make?
During OEP, you can…
- Switch from Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B) to a Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plan.
- Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare.
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another. This might involve switching from a plan without Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage to one that has it, or vice-versa.
- Make changes to your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan:
- Join a Part D plan.
- Switch from one Part D plan to another one.
- Drop your Part D plan altogether.
Note: Medicare Supplement Insurance plans are an exception. You can join one at any time during the year, not just during OEP.
- Why is OEP so important?
Once the Medicare Open Enrollment Period closes on December 7, 2015, you cannot make any changes to your Medicare plan until the following year. There are some exceptions, such as if you move out of the area served by your plan. But for most people on Medicare, the OEP is the only time when you can make a change.
- Do you have to make a change during OEP?
Absolutely not. If the Medicare coverage you have now is working for you, and your plan(s) is offered for 2016, then you can keep your coverage as it is. However, because this time comes but once a year, it’s a good idea to evaluate your coverage during Open Enrollment Period every year. That way, you will know if you already have the best coverage options for you, or if you need to make some changes.