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Prior to 2011, Medicare beneficiaries were able to switch between Medicare Advantage Plans from January 1 through March 31, which was the original open enrollment period for Medicare Advantage Plans. Today, beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage Plans (also known as Medicare Part C) no longer have an option to switch from one plan to another during this time.
Disenrollment Period: Switching from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare (Jan. 1 – Feb. 14)
Currently, anyone enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan on January 1 will be required, under most circumstances, to stay enrolled in the plan for the entire calendar year. However, if you would like to change your Medicare coverage, you may choose to disenroll from your Medicare Advantage Plan and switch to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). You can make this switch only from January 1 through February 14 (in other words, if you don't love your Medicare Advantage Plan, you have until Valentine's Day to go back to Original Medicare). If you elect to switch to Original Medicare, your Medicare coverage will begin the first day of the month after you enroll in Original Medicare. (For example, if you send in your paperwork on February 13, your new Medicare coverage will begin on March 1.)
To disenroll from your Medicare Advantage Plan and switch to Original Medicare, you should contact your current plan or call 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY 1-877-486-2048). Remember: If you return to Original Medicare, you must decide whether you need Medicare Supplemental Insurance (also known as a "Medigap" policy). If your current Medicare Advantage Plan includes prescription drug coverage, you will also need to choose a Medicare Part D plan if you want prescription drug coverage.
Annual Open Enrollment: Switching from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7)
If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan on January 1 and wish to switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan, you must wait until the Annual Open Enrollment Period. The Annual Enrollment Period runs from October 15 through December 7.
Exceptions to the dates listed above can be made, if:
- You are within three months of the month in which you turn (or turned) 65 years of age and become (or became) eligible for Medicare for the first time; or
- You are within three months of your 25th month of disability, and you become (or became) eligible for Medicare due to that disability.
If either of these situations applies, you may join, switch, or drop Medicare coverage— including Medicare Advantage Plans—at any time during the seven-month periods described above. The seven months include the three months prior to the month you become eligible for Medicare coverage, the month in which you become eligible for coverage, and the three months after the month in which you become eligible for coverage:
|3 months prior to the month you become eligible for Medicare||2 months prior to the month you become eligible for Medicare||1 month prior to the month you become eligible for Medicare||The month you become eligible for Medicare||1 month after the month you become eligible for Medicare||2 months after the month you become eligible for Medicare||3 months after the month you become eligible for Medicare|
In addition, you may be able to switch between Medicare Advantage Plans, join a new plan, or drop an existing plan without waiting for a Medicare open enrollment period, if you:
- Move out of your plan's service area
- Have low income and limited resources and qualify for Medicare's low-income subsidy
- Have full Medicaid coverage
- Receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits
- Live in a nursing home, skilled nursing facility, or rehabilitation hospital
Reviewing your Medicare options
If you find yourself locked in to your Medicare Advantage Plan for the calendar year and you do not want to disenroll and switch to Original Medicare, you can at least do something positive by planning ahead for next year. By taking the time to now to carefully compare the various Medicare Advantage Plans and other Medicare policies available, you will be able to easily drop or switch your plan during the next Medicare Annual Enrollment Period.