Sometimes, even when you think you’ve made the right choice in a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C), you need to make changes. Whether it’s because you’re moving out of your plan’s service area, or you simply want to change plans or return to Original Medicare, there are rules for when and how you can adjust your Part C coverage.
While Annual Enrollment in the fall is typically the time when most seniors make changes, there are other times throughout the year when you can change your Medicare Advantage plan.
2019 Annual Enrollment (October 15 – December 7)
Annual Enrollment extends from October 15 to December 7 each year, and is the best time to make changes to an existing Medicare Advantage plan. During this time, you can add, drop or switch Medicare Part C plans without any penalty or restrictions. You can also join or drop a Medicare Prescription Drug plan, or switch from one Medicare drug plan to another during Annual Enrollment. All changes you make during Annual Enrollment will become effective on January 1.
The Annual Enrollment period isn’t just for Medicare Advantage or Part D recipients. All Medicare beneficiaries are allowed to make changes to their coverage during this time. Some people join Medicare Advantage or enroll in a prescription drug plan for the first time.
Even if you are satisfied with your Medicare Advantage plan, Annual Enrollment is the time to look at other options in your area to make sure all of your needs will continue to be met the following year. Comparison shopping is smart, and may help you find better coverage at a more affordable price.
Note: if you are currently enrolled in a Medicare Supplement plan, you can make changes to Medigap anytime throughout the year, and you are not restricted to the Annual Enrollment period. However, underwriting may apply.
Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (January 1 – February 14)
If you’re interested in dropping your current Medicare Advantage plan to return to Original Medicare, a specific disenrollment period has been created for you to do so. Medicare Advantage Disenrollment period extends from January 1 through February 14. This is the time for you to drop Medicare Advantage and return to Original Medicare.
Note: You cannot join a new Medicare Advantage plan or switch prescription drug plans during this time. The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment period is for dropping Part C only. However, if you have prescription drug coverage with your Part C plan, and will lose it when you disenroll, you have until February 14 to join a new Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
All changes made during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment period will be effective the first day of the following month. For example, if you drop your Part C plan on January 22, your new coverage will begin on February 1. Note: Coverage for a new prescription drug plan will begin the first day of the month after the plan gets your enrollment form.
Other Reasons to Change a Medicare Advantage Plan
What happens if you need to make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan outside of Annual Enrollment or the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment period? Special Enrollment periods were created for people who need to make changes to Part C at other times throughout the year. For example, if you move out of your current plan’s service area or your plan leaves your area, you can switch to another Part C plan or return to Original Medicare at any time during the year. New coverage typically begins the first day of the month after you disenroll from a previous Medicare Advantage plan.
Another qualifying reason to use the Special Enrollment period is if you want to join a 5-star Medicare Advantage plan. You may switch from your current Part C plan and join a new plan at any time during the year if the new plan has an overall performance rating of 5 stars. Note: you may only use this Special Enrollment option once during the year.
Medicare Advantage Disenrollment:
5-star enrollment period: