Medicare Open Enrollment 2020

Medicare open enrollment is the time of year when you can make important changes to your Medicare coverage.

elder couple holding paper

Medicare open enrollment for 2020 goes from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, 2019.

During this open enrollment period, you can make changes to your Medicare health and drug coverage that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

What kind of changes can you make to your Medicare plans between these dates? You’ll learn about that here. You’ll also find answers to questions like:

When is the Medicare annual election period for 2020?

The 2020 Medicare annual election period, or AEP, also is from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, 2019.

There’s a good reason for the overlap in dates: the annual election period for Medicare and Medicare open enrollment are the same thing.

If you’re wondering, aren’t there other Medicare enrollment periods with different deadlines? There are. Besides the annual election period, you’ve got the:

  • Initial enrollment period
  • General enrollment period
  • Special enrollment period

Here’s when these Medicare enrollment periods happen and what you can do during them.

Initial enrollment period

The initial enrollment period, or IEP, is when you first become eligible for Medicare coverage. It’s a seven-month window around your 65th birthday. During this time, you can sign up for Original Medicare, or Medicare Part A and Part B.

General enrollment period

The general enrollment period is for people who didn’t sign up for Medicare Parts A or B during their IEP and who aren’t eligible for a special enrollment period. It goes from Jan. 1 to March 31 every year — not just for 2020.

Special enrollment period

You only qualify for a Medicare special enrollment period if you missed your IEP because you were still covered by a group health plan through your own or your spouse's job (or through a family member's job, if you have a disability). You can sign up for Original Medicare coverage within this eight-month window, which starts:

  • The month after your employment, or that of your spouse or family member, ends
  • The month after the group health plan tied to that job ends

What changes can you make during Medicare open enrollment?

During Medicare open enrollment, you can review your existing coverage and make changes to it. Specifically, you can switch from:

  • Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
  • A Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare
  • One Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • One Medicare Part D drug plan to another

You also can do the following during the Medicare open enrollment period in 2020 (or in any year):

  • Join a Part D drug plan
  • Drop your Part D coverage

What is the 2020 Medicare Advantage open enrollment period?

Actually, there are two open enrollment periods that allow you to make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan for 2020.

From Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, 2019, you can change from:

  • Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage
  • Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare

You also can switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another during this enrollment window.

And from Jan. 1 to March 31, 2020, you can switch from:

  • One Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • A Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare

One change you can’t make during this open enrollment period is to go from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage coverage.

Is there a Medicare Part D open enrollment period for 2020?

Yes, there is an open enrollment period for Medicare Part D coverage that runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 every year. Between those dates, you can:

  • Enroll in a Part D plan
  • Switch from one drug plan to another
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage

When does Medicare Supplement open enrollment for 2020 begin and end?

There are no yearly open enrollment periods or deadlines for Medicare Supplement plans like there are for other kinds of Medicare coverage.

Instead, you can buy or change MedSup or Medigap policies anytime you want. Most people do so during a six-month Medigap open enrollment period, though. This period starts the same month you enroll in Medicare Part B.

If you wait until after your Medigap open enrollment period to buy or change this type of coverage, you may not be able to find an insurance company that will sell it to you. And even if you do, you might pay a lot more for it.

What happens if you miss Medicare open enrollment?

If you miss the Medicare open enrollment period for 2020, you might still be able to make changes to your coverage through a special enrollment period.

A few of the situations that could make you eligible for a Medicare special enrollment period:

  • Moving
  • Losing other health insurance coverage
  • Your current plan changing its contract with Medicare 

If you don’t qualify for a special enrollment period, you’ll need to wait for the next general enrollment or open enrollment period to make changes to your Medicare plan.

Do you have to enroll in Medicare every year?

You don’t have to enroll in Medicare every year. You also don’t have to renew your Medicare plan each year.

This is true if you’re enrolled in Original Medicare, as well as if you have Medicare Advantage, Medigap or Part D coverage.

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