How Often Can I Change Medicare Plans?
As your health-care needs evolve over time, you may need to change Medicare plans in order to receive the coverage that best fits your health requirements. Changing Medicare plans can be relatively easy, if you understand when and how often you can switch from one Medicare plan to another.
Annual Election Period
If you want to change Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans , the best time to do so is during the Annual Election Period (also called Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage), which runs from October 15 to December 7 each year. During that period, you can:
• Change from Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, to a Medicare Advantage plan.
• Change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare, Part A and Part B.
• Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
• Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage plan that does.
• Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that offers drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t.
• Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D) to another.
When you change Medicare plans during the Annual Election Period, your new coverage begins on January 1 of the following year.
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
If you’re enrolled in Medicare Advantage and want to switch back to Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, you can do so during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP), which runs from January 1-March 31 each year. You will also have until March 31 to join a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D), and your coverage will go into effect the first day of the month after your new plan gets your enrollment form.
Special Election Period
Medicare has certain provisions to help you deal with unexpected happenings. If you go through certain special circumstances, you may be able to change Medicare plans during Special Election Periods. These events may include, but aren’t limited to:
• moving to a new address
• losing your current coverage
• qualifying for other coverage such as Medicaid, Employer Group Coverage and State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program
• becoming qualified for Extra Help to pay for Medicare Part D coverage through the Social Security Administration
The dates and types of changes you can make vary according to the Special Election Period.
How to change Medicare plans
Be aware that if you want to disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and don’t want to enroll in another Medicare Advantage plan, you have to notify your plan in writing. However, if you want to change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another or from one Medicare prescription drug plan to another, all you have to do is join the new plan, and you will automatically be disenrolled from the old one.
Also understand that you can generally only change Medicare plans during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, Annual Election Period, or a Special Election Period (whichever applies).