To say that Medicare can be confusing is an understatement. As a program that was developed over several generations, it has many layers. A few years ago, CMS decided to re-implement the Medicare "Open Enrollment Period"(OEP), which is not to be mistaken for the Medicare "Annual Enrollment Period."(AEP)
Every fall, beginning on October 15th, Medicare recipients are able to switch their Medicare Advantage Plans or their Prescription Drug Plans without any underwriting or other restrictions. This AEP ends on December 7th each year. But...what if someone mistakenly signs up for the wrong plan, or their circumstances change and they need a different plan because of a new doctor or different medications? For many years, the only avenue to make a change was to appeal to CMS and beg for a special enrollment period, or just be stuck in the wrong plan for up to a year.
Now that the OEP had been re-installed, it gives Medicare recipients a 90 day window from January 1st till March 31st to make a one-time change if a more appropriate plan is available. During this time, agents are prohibited from marketing to Medicare recipients encouraging them to leave one plan in favor of another plan. (unfortunately there are some agencies and marketing organizations that ignore that rule and inundate Medicare members with solicitations) Again, the intention of this OEP is to correct a potential problem and put the member in a better place. Be careful, however, because if someone is drawn to another plan and it turns out to be a bad choice, the one-time change "free pass" has been used, and it may be very difficult to get out of that new plan until the next AEP, which is nearly a year away.
To those of you not familiar with the Medicare rules, this is just a friendly reminder to be weary of Medicare solicitations this time of year, and make absolutely sure that if a plan change is made, it is the right move or you may be stuck in the wrong plan for almost a year.