When Can I Change My Medicare Advantage Plan?

Although you may have adequate coverage under your current Medicare Advantage plan, there could come a time when you feel the need to switch to a different plan due to alternate coverage options or a difference in premium cost.

While you are allowed to sign up for different Medicare Advantage plans – as well as make changes to your current coverage – it is important to understand that there are only certain times of year when you are able to do so.

Enrolling in Medicare Advantage

In order to initially enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you must already have Medicare Parts A and B. In addition, you must also reside in your Medicare Advantage plan’s service area, and the plan must be currently accepting new members. Once you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you are able to change to another plan option, but only at specific times or under particular circumstances.

Annual Election Period

The Annual Election Period runs between October 15th and December 7th of each year. During this time, you can submit your application for enrollment in a new Medicare Advantage plan either in person through a licensed representative, or via the plan’s website. It is also possible to enroll directly through Medicare’s website or by calling Medicare’s toll-free telephone line.

Special Election Period

Under certain circumstances, you can enroll or disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan. Some of these reasons may include if you move out of your plan’s service area, if Medicare terminates its contract with your particular Medicare Advantage plan, or if the plan itself will be terminating at the end of the year.

Disenrolling in Medicare Advantage

Just like enrolling and changing your Medicare Advantage plan is limited to particular times of the year, you can also disenroll only at certain points in time. These include:

  • Annual Election Period – As with submitting an application for enrollment, you can only disenroll in your Medicare Advantage plan during an annual election period. This period runs between October 15th and December 7th each year.
  • Special Election Period – If you qualify for certain circumstances, you may fall into one of the special election period categories and be able to disenroll in your Medicare Advantage plan during a special election period.
  • Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period – There is also a Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period each year that runs between January 1st and February 14th. Here, an individual must switch back to Original Medicare.

If You Are Switching to Original Medicare

You can initially enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during the period when you first qualify for Medicare. Then, during the first 45 days of each year – January 1st through February 14th – you are allowed to leave your Medicare Advantage plan and change over to Original Medicare. During this time, you are not allowed to make any changes to your coverage if you have Original Medicare, nor can you change over from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.

If you are switching your coverage from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B), you should also consider adding Medicare Part D for prescription drug coverage. This coverage can help to ease the cost of expensive medications that you may take. In addition, you may also opt for a Medicare Supplement insurance policy.

Things to Consider

Regardless of when you decide to change your Medicare Advantage coverage, there are some important factors to consider. For example, you should not cancel your current plan until your new coverage has started. Otherwise, you may find that you are without any coverage at all for a period of time.

In addition, if you want to leave your current Medicare Advantage plan and you do not want to join another Medicare Advantage plan at all, you will need to submit a written notification to the plan, or contact Medicare directly via phone during the enrollment period.

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