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How to Change Medicare Plans

It is beneficial to review Medicare coverage every year and evaluate whether it’s right based upon coverage, convenience, and cost. The Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP), also referred to as the Annual Election Period (AEP) that occurs October 15 through December 7, is the time each year to review coverage and make changes to Medicare plans. During this time the following is possible:

  • Change from Medicare Parts A & B (Original Medicare) to a Part C (private Medicare Advantage) plan

  • Change from Medicare Advantage back to Original Medicare

  • Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan

  • Switch Medicare Advantage plans

If enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, there are additional opportunities to re-evaluate coverage during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Periods (MA OEP). The first is the annual period from January 1 – March 31, anyone with a Medicare Advantage plan can change plans during this time. The other is an individualized Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period that’s limited to new Medicare beneficiaries who enroll in an MA plan during the first three months they have Medicare. The MA OEP offers a three-month window to switch plans. During these times the following can occur:

  • Switching to a different Medicare Advantage plan

  • Switching from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare and a standalone Part D plan

Signing Up for Medicare Part C

To enroll in a Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) plan, there are specific times it can be done:

  • If new to Medicare – Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): this is the 7-month period when first eligible or Medicare. After enrollment in Parts A & B, it possible to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.

  • If already enrolled in Medicare Parts A & B – The Annual Election/Open Enrollment Period (OEP): each year between October 15 and December 7, allows for a switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or vice versa.

Be aware that if you have Original Medicare with a Medigap/supplemental policy and you switch to Medicare Advantage, you most likely will not be able to get a Medigap policy again if you switch back.

The date coverage starts depends on the period of enrollment. Do not drop existing coverage, if any, until coverage with Medicare Advantage plan has started.

Only Enrolling in Medicare Part A (not Part B)

If enrolled in health coverage through an employer or an actively working spouse, it is possible to delay enrollment in Medicare Part B until later. If Medicare hasn’t started yet, there are two ways to drop Part B:

  • If automatically enrolled in both Part A & Part B and sent a Medicare card, follow the instructions that come with the card and send the card back. If card is kept, enrollment in Part B remain and payment for Part B premiums will be taken out.

  • If enrolled in Medicare through Social Security, contact Social Security.

Related Content

Explore Medicare Coverage
Understand the differences between Medicare coverage including Orginal Medicare (Part A & B), Part C, Part D and Medigap.
Make Sense of Medicare Costs
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When Does Medicare Coverage Start?
The start date of Medicare coverage depends on which month enrolled.

Age Well Planner is an educational website created by nonprofit the National Council on Aging (NCOA). We provide information, resources, and referrals on topics such as: Benefits, Income, and Medicare.

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