2022 Guide to the Fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period
The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP, also called the fall Open Enrollment Period) is the one time each year millions of Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their Medicare coverage. Learn more and find out how to sign up for the best Medicare plan for your unique needs and budget.
The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, also called AEP or the fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period, starts on October 15 and runs until December 7 each year.
This is the time of year when many Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their Medicare coverage, such as switching Medicare plans or changing their coverage from Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B) to a private Medicare plan such as a Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plan.
Changes Medicare beneficiaries make to their coverage during the 2021 fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period will go into effect on January 1, 2022. If you fail to make any changes during this time, you are unlikely to get another chance to do so until next fall unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.
Why should Medicare beneficiaries review their coverage every year to make sure they are enrolled in the best plan for their needs?
- Your Medicare plan coverage, benefits and costs can change from one year to the next.
- New and better plan may be available where you live.
- Your health care needs and budget may have changed in the previous year.
In this guide, we outline everything you need to know to navigate this year’s fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period and set yourself up for health care success in 2022.
The Annual Enrollment Period lasts from October 15 to December 7 every year. During AEP, Medicare beneficiaries may add, drop or switch private Medicare insurance plans.
AEP applies to anyone enrolled in any of the following types of coverage:
- Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B)
- Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C)
- Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans
If you have a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) insurance plan or are interesting in applying for one, you can apply for a new Medigap plan at any time during the year. However, the best time to apply for a new Medigap plan is during your Medigap open enrollment period, which is the six-month period that starts once you are at least 65 years old and enrolled in Medicare Part B.
You can take any of the following enrollment actions during AEP:
- Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
- Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
- Enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, disenroll from a Part D plan entirely or switch from one Part D plan to another
You don't have to wait for AEP to sign up for Original Medicare for the first time if you haven't already done so. If your Initial Medicare Enrollment Period (your IEP, which begins three months before you turn 65 and ends three months after the month of your 65th birthday) coincides with AEP, then you may of course enroll in Original Medicare at this time.
Just because you remain enrolled in the same plan from one year to the next doesn’t mean that plan will be identical in the new year.
A Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plan may make a number of changes from one year to the next, such as:
- Adding or dropping health care providers from the plan’s list of participating providers
- Changing the amount of your premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, copayments and other costs
- Add or dropping certain covered benefits
Each beneficiary of a private Medicare plan will receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) during the lead-up to AEP. This letter notifies you of any changes being made to your current plan for the upcoming year. Read this letter carefully to determine how any changes may affect your care.
Some of things to consider include:
- Will your favorite doctor and pharmacy still accept your plan?
- Are the medications you’re currently taking still covered?
- If you have any chronic or ongoing health conditions, has coverage of those benefits changed?
- Have the plan costs changed? And if so, do they still fit within your desired budget?
- Have the Medicare Star Ratings changed? Medicare uses a 5-star rating system to rate all Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans every year according to various quality measures. If your current plan has dipped in quality, you may want to explore similar plans with higher Medicare star ratings.
"Medicare uses information from member satisfaction surveys, plans, and health care providers to give overall performance star ratings to plans. A plan can get a rating between 1 and 5 stars. A 5-star rating is considered excellent. These ratings help you compare plans based on quality and performance. Medicare updates these ratings each fall for the following year. These ratings can change each year." - Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services1
If you are satisfied with your current Medicare coverage and do not wish to make any changes, you do not need to take any action during AEP. You will be automatically re-enrolled in your current plan (as long as your plan is still being offered in 2022).
It’s important to keep in mind that if you do not take any action during AEP, you may not get another opportunity to make changes to your coverage until next year’s AEP. There are a few additional enrollment opportunities throughout the year, but these apply only to people in special circumstances or who meet certain criteria.
You may read about these additional Medicare enrollment periods to see if you qualify.
For additional help navigating the Annual Enrollment Period, you can also reach out to your local SHIP chapter. SHIP, or State Health Insurance Assistance Program, provides free and unbiased Medicare information from qualified volunteers and is a trusted source of help and information for senior adults on Medicare.
One way to get help finding the best Medicare plan during AEP is to connect with a licensed Medicare insurance agent or to compare plans and prices with an online plan comparison tool.
If you want to add or switch a Medicare Advantage plan, you may get in touch with a licensed Medicare insurance agent. An agent will be able to collect plan options available in your area and help you comb through the differences in each one. You can also compare plans online on your own, including whether or not a plan covers your drugs, your doctor and your pharmacy. If you're eligible, you can even enroll online.
If you wish to drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare, you will need to contact your Medicare Advantage plan provider directly.
If you wish to shop for and compare Medigap plans (which you may do anytime throughout the year), you may also compare plans online or call to speak with a licensed insurance agent.
To add or switch Medicare Part D plans, you can gather a list of available plans in your area online, along with instructions for how to enroll.
You can compare plans from some of the most popular insurance companies in the country, such as Mutual of Omaha, Aetna, Humana, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and more.
If you find a plan that covers the drugs you take and you want to enroll and are eligible, you can enroll online or call to speak with a licensed insurance agent who can help you enroll.
If you wish to shop for and compare Medigap plans (which you may do anytime throughout the year, not only during AEP), you may also compare plans online or call to speak with a licensed insurance agent.
1 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/when-can-i-join-a-health-or-drug-plan/5-star-special-enrollment-period.