What is the Annual Election Period?
The Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP) takes place from October 15 until December 7 every year. This allows Medicare beneficiaries to change Medicare Advantage or Medicare Prescription drug (Part D) coverage.
This election period DOES NOT apply to Medicare Supplement(Medigap) policies. It is very important to know and understand this fact. Many people still think that they can only change their Medicare Supplement Insurance during this time. Medicare’s lack of a clear explanation is the primary reason that people are not aware of this. The Medicare & You Handbook that is published and updated each year does not do a good job of pointing this fact out. I wonder why?
You can change your Medigap plan anytime during the year. Most of the time, in order to do this, you have to answer some health questions to find out if you qualify. It is important to apply when you have the opportunity to save money and do not have serious or chronic health conditions.
Can you see the problem that this misunderstanding can cause? Imagine a person gets a large rate increase towards the first part of the year and thinks that they have to wait till the end of the year for the AEP to make a change. At the time they get the rate increase, their health is good and could qualify for a lower rate with another company that offers the same benefits as their current plan. Now consider this, that same person that thinks they have to wait to change has a health complication that occurs and disqualifies them from getting approved for Medicare Supplement coverage. This is happening to people every year. So then what happens? They are “stuck” with the higher rate, or if the premium is so high they can’t afford it they are almost forced to go with a $0 or low premium Medicare Advantage plan and give up their freedom to choose any doctor or hospital.
I am hoping someday that the majority of Medicare Supplement policy holders will become aware of this. It is the responsibility of agents like myself to educate our clients and the people we talk to about information that affects their healthcare choices. Medicare should also make this information clearer to understand in their publications, especially since a vast majority of people are not aware.
So if you have a Medicare Supplement policy and your rate goes up or has gone up significantly over the years take advantage and change anytime of the year. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan or want to see if there is a better Part D prescription drug plan do it during the Annual Election Period.