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The Annual Election Period (AEP) for 2020 Medicare Enrollment

Christian Worstell by Christian Worstell    |    Published Oct 25, 2019    |    Reviewed by John Krahnert

The 2020 Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP) is sometimes referred to by several names such as the 2020 Annual Enrollment Period or the Fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period

Despite the different names, the main purpose of this enrollment period is to give Medicare beneficiaries an opportunity to make changes to their coverage if they have a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan or a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.

If you don’t have either plan, you can choose to enroll in one during the fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period.

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What Is the Annual Enrollment Period?

The Medicare Annual Election Period lasts from October 15 to December 7 every year.

  • From October 15 to December 7, 2019, Medicare beneficiaries may be able to make changes to their coverage that will take effect on January 1, 2020.

  • During the Annual Election Period, you can:

    • Join a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D plan

    • Switch Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plans

    • Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare

    • Drop your Medicare drug coverage entirely

  • If you have a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, this may be one of the only times of the year that you can make changes to your Medicare coverage.

  • Depending on your circumstances, you could potentially qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) during other times of the year.

If you have Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap), you don’t need to do anything during the 2020 Annual Election Period.

You may be able to make changes to your Medigap coverage at any time during the year, though the best time to join a Medigap plan is during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period (OEP). We’ll explain more about that below.

Is AEP When I Sign Up for Medicare for the First Time?

Not necessarily. As you approach your 65th birthday, you’ll enter your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). This is typically the first time you can sign up for Medicare.

Medicare Initial Enrollment Period IEP
Your Medicare IEP lasts for 7 months.

Your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period lasts for a total of 7 months. It begins 3 months before you turn 65, includes the month of your birthday and continues on for 3 additional months. 

During this time, you can manually enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B (also called Original Medicare) for your first time if you are not automatically enrolled. 

If you want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, you can also sign up for a plan during your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period.

If you don’t sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan or a Part D plan during your Initial Enrollment Period, then you may not be able to sign up for one of these plans until the Annual Election Period (depending on your circumstances).

What Happens If You Miss Open Enrollment?

If you don’t take any action during the Annual Election Period, you may have limited opportunities to make any coverage changes before next year’s open enrollment period. 

Special Enrollment Period

A Medicare Special Enrollment Period (SEP) can potentially happen at any time throughout the year. However, these enrollment periods are only granted to beneficiaries who experience a qualifying life event.

A few examples of the types of events that might qualify you for a Medicare SEP include:

  • Moving to a new coverage area

  • Losing coverage through no fault of your own

  • Moving back to the United States after living abroad

  • Being released from prison

  • Moving into or out of an assisted living facility

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period takes place from January 1 to March 31 each year.

During this time, Medicare Advantage plan beneficiaries may be able to:

  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another

  • Disenroll from Medicare Advantage and revert back to Original Medicare

  • Disenroll from Medicare Advantage, revert back to Original Medicare and enroll in a Medicare Part D plan

Do I Need to Enroll in Medicare Annually?

No. If you are enrolled in Original Medicare, you do not need to take any action to maintain your enrollment each year.

  • If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, a Medicare Part D plan or a Medicare Supplement plan, you can continue to be enrolled in your plan each year and do not need to reenroll.

    As long as you continue to pay your plan premiums, you can remain on your plan.

    It’s a good idea to review your coverage each year, however. Your health care needs and your budget could change from year to year.

  • Some Medicare Advantage plans or Part D plans may also change their rules for things like drug coverage, provider networks and costs from one year to the next. A carrier may also choose to discontinue your plan completely. However, your plan won’t end until January 1.

    If your plan makes any changes for the next year, they should send you an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) in the fall before September 30.

There are some situations in which your plan may end, you moved outside of the plan’s coverage area or you lost your eligibility. If this happens, you should receive a notice in the mail with instructions for how to proceed in finding replacement coverage.

Can You Enroll in Medigap During the Annual Election Period? 

Yes, but the Annual Election Period does not affect Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plans. You can apply for a Medicare Supplement plan at any time of the year, but there are certain things you should keep in mind.

Medicare Supplement plans help pay for some of the out-of-pocket costs Original Medicare doesn’t cover, such as deductibles, coinsurance and copayments. 

The best time to apply for a Medicare Supplement plan is during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period (OEP). During your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, insurance companies can’t charge you higher plan premiums or deny you a policy because of your health.

  • Your Medigap OEP lasts for 6 months and starts as soon as you are at least 65 years old and enrolled in Medicare Part B.

  • If you apply for a Medicare Supplement plan outside of your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, insurance companies can use medical underwriting to determine your rates or even deny you coverage entirely.

  • An exception would be if you qualify for certain “guaranteed issue rights.”

    Some states have additional laws that may offer additional enrollment periods that allow you to buy a plan without underwriting. Check with your state’s Department of Insurance to learn more.

There are 10 standardized Medicare Supplement plans available in most states. You can use the chart below to compare the benefits offered by each type of plan.

2019 Medigap plans comparison chart
Compare 2019 Medicare Supplement plans

Find Medicare Supplement Plans Where You Live

A licensed insurance agent can help you compare Medigap plans available in your area so that you can find a plan that fits your budget and your coverage needs.

To get started learning about your Medicare eligibility and finding the right Medigap plan for you, call a licensed agent today.  


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Christian Worstell is a health care and policy writer for MedicareSupplement.com. He has written hundreds of articles helping people better understand their Medicare coverage options.


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