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A Timeline Reference for the 2017 Annual Election Period


The Annual Election Period (AEP) for Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans is right around the corner. This year it starts on October 7 and runs until December 15. But what exactly does it mean to you? What happens every year during this period?

For many people the AEP doesn’t mean much. But if you’re thinking about changing your Medicare coverage situation, or even just evaluating your options, be aware, and be prepared.

So just what can you do during the AEP?

You can switch to a different Part D plan

Most people sign up for a Part D prescription drug plan during their initial Medicare sign-up period. And hopefully you like your plan, and it allows you to afford the drugs that you need to feel well.

But insurance companies change the drugs that they cover all of the time – it makes sense, right, since new drugs come on the market every day? But they also move drugs around in their formularies – that’s the plan that the company develops to determine how they will reimburse their policyholders for the drugs they buy. So you might want to reevaluate your Part D coverage during the AEP, especially if your company has stopped covering a drug you take, or changed the way they pay for it.

You can go from original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan

Medicare Advantage plans sort of take the place of original Medicare for those who have them, with a few notable differences. Many of them also cover prescription drugs, which original Medicare does not do, and they also often add additional benefits, such as dental care and health club memberships.

But switching to a Medicare Advantage plan is a big decision, and one that you should consider carefully. Most Medicare Advantage plans use networks of doctors and hospitals, and operate like Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs). This could potentially limit your ability to see the doctor of your choosing. So be sure you read the fine print closely before making this change.

What about changing my Medicare supplement plan?

You can actually change to a different Medicare supplement plan at any time, however once you’re outside of your initial enrollment period the company will likely make your acceptance contingent upon your health. If you have significant health problems you might not be approved, and even a relatively small problem can result in your paying a higher rate.

Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage. For more information visit


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