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What is the Difference between Medicare’s Annual Enrollment and Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment?

Posted by David Ghiorso, CPA, December 18, 2021

There is so much to learn about Medicare, with numerous plans and programs available to you. On top of that, Medicare operates two different enrollment periods each year, each with a different purpose. So, what’s the difference between Medicare’s Annual Election Period and the Medicare Advantage Annual Enrollment?

Medicare’s Annual Election Period applies to all Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of which type of plan you have chosen. During AEP, which runs from October 15 to December 7 each year, you can take the following actions:

  • Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare
  • Switch from Original Medicare into a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • Add, drop, or change a Part D (prescription drug) plan


Each fall, everyone with a Medicare plan should evaluate their current plan and out-of-pocket expenses from the previous year. Read your plan’s Annual Notice of Change, which they must send to you before AEP begins, and learn how your current plan is changing. Speak with a Licensed Insurance agent to identify other options available to you, so that you can make an informed decision about Medicare for the upcoming year.  If you do nothing, you will be re-enrolled into your current plan.

Medicare Advantage Annual Enrollment, from January 1 to March 31 each year, only applies to those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. At this time, you can evaluate your Medicare Advantage plan and determine whether it still works for you. You can switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another or change back to Original Medicare. If you go back to Original Medicare, you can also add a Part D (prescription) plan.

But for those enrolled in Original Medicare, you cannot opt into an Advantage plan at this time.

For more assistance, contact your Licensed Insurance agent within either of these enrollment windows. This will give you more time to sort through your options and choose a plan that best fits your preferences and budget.

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