If you don’t love your Medicare plan or need to change it for whatever reason, when are you allowed to make that change and how do you switch plans?
How and When Can I Change Medicare Plans? People love their Medicare plan. It offers them the coverage they need for a price they can afford. But each year, some people look to make a change with their plans. This isn’t to say that the plans are bad, it just makes sense for that person. There are plenty of reasons why you may be interested in making a change. In fact, we’ve even suggested that you at least review your Medicare plan each year to make sure it still fits your needs. Your medical needs could change. You may find a less expensive plan. You could move, necessitating a new plan network. Whatever your reason, knowing when you’re permitted to change your plan and how to go about it allows you to ensure you’re getting the benefits that best fit your needs.
Annual Enrollment Period
October 15 — December 7
The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) runs every year from October 15 to December 7. This window of time is the primary Medicare shopping season. During AEP, you can change to a different type of Medicare plan. The only thing you can’t do is enroll in Medicare for the first time unless your Initial Enrollment Period happens to occur during AEP. Specifically, you can:
- Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan if you have Original Medicare (Parts A and B)
- Return to Original Medicare from a Medicare Advantage plan by not renewing for the next calendar year
- Move from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
- Enroll in a Medicare Part D plan
- Switch from one Part D plan to another
- Drop your Part D plan completely
This is an excellent time for Medicare beneficiaries to explore their options because everything is on the table. Do you have Original Medicare and love it, but want some additional coverage? Try picking up a Part D plan or Medicare Supplement. Enjoy your Medicare coverage, but want to take it a step further? Look into a Medicare Advantage plan. Whatever your preference, there’s an option out there for you to explore.
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
January 1 — March 31
Replacing the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period in 2019, the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP) is another window of opportunity to make a change to your Medicare coverage. The new OEP takes everything about the old Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period and improves it. It is about double the length of the old disenrollment period and allows you to do more. You can still switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare and a Part D plan, as well as pick up a Medicare Supplement if you’re healthy enough. Most importantly, though, you can also use this time to switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another. This makes the Open Enrollment Period a better “do-over” window where you can hopefully fix any buyer’s remorse.
Special Enrollment Periods
The third window that you may encounter is a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). Unlike the AEP and OEP, an SEP is based on the circumstances that created it. For example, if you’re working when you turn 65 and have creditable coverage, you can begin an SEP when you retire and lose that coverage through your work. Another common reason for an SEP is if you move or change your address and your new address is outside of your current plan’s service area.
There are many different reasons why you may get an SEP and each allows you to do different things. Moving, for example, allows you to switch to Original Medicare or to a new Medicare Advantage plan that’s within your network. If Medicare terminates its contract with your Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll be able to switch to a new Medicare Advantage plan. The length of time also varies depending on the reason for the SEP but can start as soon as two months before the initiating event and continue a month or two after.
Changing Your Medicare Plan
Okay, so that’s a lot to learn, but here’s the easy part. When you switch from one Medicare plan to another, all you have to worry about is the enrollment. Once you enroll in a Medicare plan, you’ll be automatically disenrolled from your old plan. If you wish to enroll in Original Medicare from Medicare Advantage, simply call your current plan or Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE and explain what you’d like to do. And that’s it! You should receive your new plan information shortly, along with when your plan is active and in-depth coverage information.
The beauty of Medicare is that there are so many options available, so your chances of finding a plan that fits your needs is highly in your favor. That said, if you need to change your plan for whatever reason, you have options. This means that, if you’re not 100 percent satisfied with your plan, you can make the switch. You never have to be stuck in a plan you don’t love.
Just like you, your health is one of a kind. What works for one person may not for another, so the information in these articles should not take the place of an expert opinion. Before making significant lifestyle or diet changes, please consult your primary care physician or nutritionist. Your doctor will know your own health best.