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When You Can Change Medicare Plans

You’re not stuck with the same Medicare plan forever.

Life events and changing health care needs can sometimes lead to considering a change in your Medicare coverage.

Here’s a summary of when you can make changes.

Medicare Open Enrollment

Medicare Open Enrollment happens every year from October 15 through December 7. Any changes you make during this time go into effect on January 1 of the following year.

During this enrollment period, you can:

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or vice versa.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan or switch to a different Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.

If you miss Medicare Open Enrollment, you may have to wait until the following year to change your coverage, unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

Special Enrollment Periods

Special Enrollment Periods allow you to make changes to your coverage outside of Medicare Open Enrollment under certain circumstances. These circumstances include:

  • Transitioning from employer, union or other coverage to Medicare
  • Moving outside your current Medicare plan’s service area
  • Moving into or out of an institution
  • Your current Medicare plan stops servicing your area
  • You have a chance to get other coverage

Special Enrollment Periods for other situations have different rules about when you can make changes and what changes you can make. It’s important to understand the rules. There may be enrollment penalties in some cases.

Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period

The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period gives you a chance to leave a Medicare Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare. This time period happens every year from January 1 through February 14.

You also have until February 14 to enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D) if you choose to. You may incur a premium penalty if you don’t enroll in a Part D plan at this time and decide to get it later.

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