When and How to Change Your Medicare Advantage Plan
There are many things that can influence which Medicare plan works best for you. Once you have selected and enrolled in a plan, however, the government limits when you can switch Medicare plans. Every year, thousands of Medicare enrollees decide they want or need to swap plans, so there is no reason for you to feel alone in this process.
Changing Your Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare Plan
There are many things to look at when you’re deciding whether you want to switch Medicare plans. One factor to consider is cost. There may be additional premium costs for Medicare Advantage plans when compared to Original Medicare, and you can also expect the amount you spend in out-of-pocket costs to vary from plan to plan.
Keep in mind that there are different rates for copays and prescriptions, and you’ll need to be sure you choose the best option to fit your specific health needs.
There are only a few times each year when you can switch Medicare plans, and you need to be ready for them, so you don’t miss out on these enrollment periods. Missing an important deadline could leave you with gaps in coverage, which could result in your missing out on necessary medical care.
If you are planning to switch Medicare Advantage plans, make a note of the different enrollment periods so you can ensure you have the coverage you need when you need it.
Annual Enrollment Periods
Every fall, there is an annual election period for the main Medicare programs: Medicare Advantage (known as Part C) and Original Medicare (known as Medicare parts A and B).
This enrollment period occurs between October 15 and December 7 every year. During this time, you can switch Medicare Advantage plans, switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or vice versa. Once you change your Medicare plan, your new coverage will take effect on January 1 the following year.
If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during the annual election period, you are allowed to make a one-time switch during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, January 1 to March 31. During this period, you can leave your Medicare Advantage plan and switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan or go back to Original Medicare. If you switch to Original Medicare, you can also select a Part D plan to supplement your prescription drug coverage.
- Medicare Annual Election Period: October 15 – December 7
- Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period: January 1 – March 31
Special Enrollment Periods
You do have the ability to make changes to your Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription plans when certain events happen in your life. Some of the most common events that would trigger a Special Enrollment Period would be if you move or if you lose coverage from your current insurance provider. There are other life events that can trigger a Medicare Special Enrollment Period, including:
- Moving back to the U.S. from a foreign country
- You recently had a change of employment
- You left your employer or union
- You have a chance to enroll in coverage offered by your employer
- You’re no longer eligible for Medicaid
- You have a severe or disabling condition and there is a Medicare Chronic Care Special Needs Plan available that serves people with your condition