Medicare Advantage (MA) Plans usually run for a calendar year. You can only join or leave an MA plan during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), the Annual Election Period (AEP), or a Special Election Period (SEP). Generally, you can begin a MA plan when you are new to Medicare and you can switch your MA plan between October 15th through December 7th or if you qualify because of special circumstances.
This year, Medicare Advantage enrollees have only one chance to change their MA plans, and then they will be locked into that plan for all of 2017. Previously, Medicare Advantage enrollees also had the option to switch their plans during January, February and March of each year, but what used to be called the “Open Enrollment” period is no longer available to you.
So for 2017, Seniors are limited to the following options depending on your situation:
New to Medicare – You have all the health care options available to you as designated by Medicare during the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). The IEP is defined as the timeframe when you first become eligible for Medicare (the seven-month period that begins three months before the month you turn age 65, includes the month you turn age 65, and ends three months after the month you turn age 65). There are a number of different classifications commonly referred to as Part A, Part B, and Part D. Each has a specific meaning related to your health care. At DLI, we can explain each option in detail and help you sort through the terminology.
Disenrollment from your Medicare Advantage Plan – After January 1st, you still have the option to disenrollment from your MA plan until February 14th, and you will be allowed to enroll in traditional Medicare and a separate Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.
Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) Timeline - 2017 – It is very important to realize that there are new enrollment periods for Medicare Advantage, Supplement, and Part D Prescription Drug plans starting this year. On October 15th through December 7th you will be allowed to make as many changes in your Medicare Advantage or Part D Plans. After December 7th your final selection will be your plan until next years AEP unless you qualify for a special election period.
- Between September 15‐30: "Medicare & You" handbook mailed to Medicare beneficiaries.
- By September 30: All plans must mail their current members the ANOC (Annual Notice of Change)and EOC (Evidence of Coverage). These notices tell members about any changes for the 2017 plan year.
- October 1: Organizations are allowed to begin marketing their 2017 plans.
- By October 2: Plans that are not renewing their contract for 2017 or whose contract is terminated by CMS for 2017 must send their current members a letter notifying them that their current coverage will end on December 31, 2016
- By October 6: Tentative date for 2017 Plan data to go live on Medicare Plan Finder.
- October 15: Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) begins. People with Medicare can make changing their Medicare coverage by enrolling in a different Part D plan, changing from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare, or vice versa
- December 7: Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) ends.
- January 1, 2017: Effective date of all AEP‐related enrollments and disenrollment’s.
For most Seniors, professional advice like that freely offered by DLI is the best pathway. Regardless who you choose, it is important that you spend some time discussing these options with a knowledgeable broker that you trust who doesn’t work just for one insurance carrier.