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AARP's Medicare Open Enrollment FAQ

When is Medicare Open Enrollment?

The 2016 Medicare Open Enrollment period begins October 15, 2016 and ends Wednesday, December 7, 2016.

What actions can I take during Medicare Open Enrollment?

To get the most of your Medicare coverage, review all your options during Medicare's open enrollment. You can make changes to your health and prescription drug plans. Here are some of the actions you can take during open enrollment:

- Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan

- Change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare

- Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare

- Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another Medicare Advantage plan

- Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to another Medicare Advantage plan that offers drug coverage

- Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that offers drug coverage to another Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage

- Join a Medicare prescription drug plan

- Switch from one Medicare prescription drug plan to another Medicare prescription drug plan.

If I have a Medicare Advantage plan, can I switch to Original Medicare during the Open Enrollment period?

During the open enrollment period you will be able to stay with your current plan, switch to another Medicare Advantage plan, or select Original Medicare and a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D).

What are my options if my Medicare Advantage plan is ending at the end of this year?

If your Medicare Advantage plan is ending at the end of the year, you have two options:

1. You can join another Medicare Advantage plan

2. You can enroll in Original Medicare


It’s best to sign up for a new plan by the end of the year, so you can get coverage beginning January 1.

If you want to switch to Original Medicare, you will automatically be enrolled and your coverage will begin January 1. If you have Original Medicare, you may sign also up for a Medigap plan.

It is important to remember that there are rules about when you can buy a Medigap plan. You have the right to buy a Medigap plan:

- For six months beginning the month you are both 65 or older and enroll in Part B (your Medigap open enrollment period)

- Within 63 days of when you lose or end certain kinds of health coverage (“guaranteed-issue” right).


To begin your search for a plan, use the Medicare Plan Finder at www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan, on the official U.S. government site for people with Medicare.

If I am unhappy with my Medicare Advantage plan can I switch plans?

Generally, if you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you can only change plans during the open enrollment period that takes place from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year.

Enrollment in Medicare Advantage is generally for the calendar year. In certain cases you can change plans during the year. For example, if you move out of the plan’s service area, enter a nursing home or enroll in Medicaid, you may change plans. In addition, if you want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that has five stars (which means “excellent”) you may switch any time during the year if there is a five-star plan in your area.

To find out the star ratings, go to the Medicare Health Plan Finder at www.medicare.gov or call 800-MEDICARE.

Finally, if you want to leave the Medicare Advantage program, you can switch to the Original Medicare program between Jan. 1 and Feb. 14. You’ll also be able to enroll in a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan during this period if you switch to Original Medicare.

If I am satisfied with my Medicare coverage, do I need to make any changes during Medicare’s open enrollment?

If you are satisfied with your coverage, you don’t need to make any changes. However, it is a good idea to review all your choices each year during Medicare’s open enrollment period to be sure that you are in the best possible plan to meet your needs.

Visit www.medicare.gov to find information to help you compare cost, quality and benefits.

If I change my Medicare plan during open enrollment, when will my new coverage start?

If you make a change to your Medicare coverage during Medicare's open enrollment period (between October 15 and December 7), your new coverage will begin on January 1.

If I change my Medicare Part D plan during Medicare's open enrollment (between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7), when will my new coverage start?

If you make a change to your Medicare Part D coverage during Medicare's open enrollment period, your new coverage will begin on Jan. 1.

If I drop my Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage during Medicare’s Open Enrollment, can I pick it up in the future without a penalty?

Generally, if you drop Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage, you will need to pay a penalty if you later decide to enroll again. If you have other prescription drug coverage that is at least as good as Medicare’s, and you follow enrollment guidelines, you may be able to reenroll in Part D without paying a penalty.

When and how often can I switch my Medicare prescription drug plan?

Generally, if you join a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, you can only change plans under certain circumstances. You can switch your current plan during the open enrollment period, which takes place each year from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

Enrollment in Part D is generally for the calendar year. In certain cases, such as if you move or enter a nursing home, or if you lose your coverage from another source (for example, an employer or union) that is as least as good as Medicare’s — known as “creditable” — you can switch your plan at other times. Plans are now rated for quality, with five-star plans representing the highest quality. You are permitted to switch once at any time of the year to a five-star plan.

If I switch from Original Medicare with Medigap coverage to Medicare Advantage should I keep my Medigap coverage?

If you switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, your Medigap plan won’t work with Medicare Advantage.  So, you may not want to keep your Medigap plan. There are laws that limit your opportunity to buy Medigap coverage so be sure you understand them, because if you drop your Medigap insurance you may not be able to get it back.

If I have a Medigap plan and cancel it, can I get it back during open enrollment?

When you are first eligible for Medicare, you have a six-month Medigap (Medicare supplemental insurance policy) guaranteed issue period, which starts the first month you are 65 and enrolled in Part B. This period gives you a guaranteed right to buy any Medigap policy sold in your state.

Once this enrollment period ends, if you have a Medigap policy and cancel it, you might not be able to reenroll at a later date. To learn more details about enrolling in Medigap, call Medicare directly at 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227).

Do I have to reenroll in my Medicare Part D prescription drug plan every year?

If you are happy with your current plan you do not need to reenroll every year. However, it is recommended that you carefully review changes (the drugs covered, prices, preferred pharmacy networks, etc.) for the coming plan year during the open enrollment period. Your prescription drug needs may also have changed during the year, and your current plan may not necessarily best serve your current or anticipated medical needs.

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