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  • Writer's pictureMedicare Experience

Medicare Open Enrollment Period 2021

Learn about your plan options, coverage start date, and enrollment deadline.

When Is the Next Medicare Open Enrollment Period?

Medicare Open Enrollment runs each year from October 15 – December 7. So, the next Open Enrollment Period will start on October 15, 2020 and run until December 7, 2020.

Even though this period takes place in 2020, it is referred to as Medicare Open Enrollment 2021. The title year refers to the year in which your coverage will begin.

So, if you enroll in the next Open Enrollment Period, your coverage will start on January 1, 2021.

Medicare Open Enrollment start date, end date, and date coverage begins

What Is the Medicare Open Enrollment Period?

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period, also known as the Annual Open Enrollment Period, provides an opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries to reevaluate their health coverage.

During this time, you are allowed to make certain changes to your Medicare coverage.

Here are the changes you can make during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period:

  1. You can switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare.

  2. You can switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan, or from one Medicare Part D plan to another Medicare Part D plan.

  3. For those that did not enroll in a Medicare Part D plan when first eligible during their Initial Enrollment Period, you can enroll in a Medicare Part D plan. Note, however, that a Part D late enrollment penalty may apply.

Do I Have to Enroll in Medicare Each Year?

No, you do not have to sign up for Medicare each year. If you are happy with your coverage, there is no necessary renewal process for continuing your coverage from year to year.

Your plan will auto-renew each year without your doing anything.

This applies to beneficiaries of Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans, and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.

In general, so long as you pay your plan premiums, your coverage will continue as normal year after year. There are no steps you need to complete during this period.

While there is no need to re-enroll each year, the Medicare Open Enrollment Period allows you the option of reviewing your current coverage and changing plans if you choose to do so.

What if My Plan Is Being Discontinued?

While not a common occurrence, it is possible that you receive notice that your plan is going to be discontinued.

If this happens to your plan, you will receive a non-renewal notification from your plan provider in the months prior to the Medicare Open Enrollment Period.

Senior couple reviewing notice from plan.

Your plan’s coverage will continue until the end of the year, but it is important that you find a new plan during open enrollment, so that your new coverage can pick up at the beginning of the new year when your old plan ends.

Note: Keep your eye on any Medicare mail that arrives for you. If your provider has decided to discontinue your current plan, it must provide you notice of this change.

If your plan is continuing coverage like normal, you will receive a Plan Annual Notice of Change (ANOC).

This notice will detail any upcoming changes in cost, coverage, or service area effective January 1.

This is a great time to double-check that your plan is still meeting all of your healthcare needs for the coming year.

Typically, you will receive the ANOC notification from your plan in September. If you haven’t received it during this month, contact your plan provider.

Preparing for Medicare Open Enrollment

Even if you are happy with your current plan, it is a smart idea to review your coverage every year, as well as browse any newly available plans. There are several benefits to this approach:

  • Benefits Vary By Plan: Not all plans offer the same benefits. Additionally, the benefits that your current plan offers can change annually, as well as the amount of its premium.

  • Healthcare Needs Evolve: You may need additional access to medical services, have a change in prescriptions, or require more (or less) frequent doctor visits.

  • New Options Become Available: Even if you like your current plan, new Medicare plans may be available. A new plan may be more affordable or better address your specific healthcare needs.

Compare Medicare Plan Options for 2021

When deciding between plans, you will want to consider the plan’s total costs, the benefits it offers, and its provider network.

If you are reviewing your current plan, think about your needs for the year ahead.

Do you need prescription drug coverage? Or benefits such as hearing, vision, dental, and wellness programs? Maybe you require a larger provider network? Or more coverage for out-of-pocket costs?

You can use the Medicare Plan Finder to compare your coverage options for 2021. The Medicare Plan Finder can help you find the best options for both health plans and prescription drug plans.

Remember: If you are happy with your current plan, you don’t have to change a thing. However, if upon review you have decided to make a change in your Medicare coverage, be sure to do so before the December 7 deadline passes.

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