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When Can I Change My Medicare Plans?

While you should carefully consider your Medicare health plan options before enrolling, there will be times when you can change your plans if you want to find lower premiums or better coverage. However, it all depends on what kind of plans you’re currently enrolled in and if any special circumstances apply to your situation.

Today, we’ll learn about three enrollment periods that may allow you to change your Medicare plans.

Annual Election Period

The Annual Election Period (AEP) is an important time of year for every single Medicare beneficiary. It occurs every fall from October 15 through December 7. During this period, you can make changes to your Part C (Medicare Advantage) or Part D prescription drug plans. You can also choose to enroll in Part C or Part D for the first time or drop your Part C plan and go back to Original Medicare.

The reason AEP is important is that Part C and Part D plans operate on annual contracts. That means the plans can (and usually do) change from one year to the next. You may love your current plan now, but you may not be happy about the changes in the following year. For example, your doctor may no longer be in-network, or your prescriptions may no longer be covered.

AEP gives everyone a chance to select a new Part C or Part D plan for the upcoming year. Changes made during this time go into effect on January 1.

If you have never enrolled in Medicare Part D or want to change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, you can do so during AEP. You may also choose to drop your Part C plan and go back to Original Medicare. However, it’s important to note that if you wish to add a Medicare Supplement plan, you will likely need to pass medical underwriting.

Special Enrollment Periods

Not everyone qualifies for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). As the name implies, these enrollment periods are for “special” life events. Probably the most common occurrence of an SEP is when someone decides to delay their Medicare enrollment past the age of 65. As long as they have creditable coverage in place, they will be granted an SEP to enroll in Medicare when their current insurance plan ends.

Other life events that might qualify you for a SEP include the following:

  • Moving to a new city, state, or zip code.
  • Moving into or out of an institution, like a skilled nursing facility.
  • Losing or gaining Medicaid eligibility.
  • Your current plan leaves the area.
  • Your current plan becomes insolvent.
  • Your current insurance carrier breaks Medicare rules.
  • You are diagnosed with a chronic condition.
  • You choose Medicare Advantage for the first time and want to move back to Original Medicare within the first 12 months of having the plan (known as a “Trial Right”).

This is not a complete list of qualifying life events. In addition, the amount of time you have to change your Medicare plan during an SEP will depend on the situation. If you have had any major life changes, you should speak with one of our licensed insurance agents to find out if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. We’ll help you determine if you’re eligible to change your current plan and help you find a new plan that fits your needs.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

Medicare Advantage has its own Open Enrollment Period. It happens annually, beginning on January 1 and ending on March 31. During this time, individuals who are already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan can choose to make a one-time change. They can pick a different MA plan or disenroll entirely and go back to Original Medicare.

If you elect to utilize this period, the change you make will go into effect on the first day of the following month. So, if you change your Part C plan on January 10, your new plan will begin on February 1.

As we mentioned earlier, those who wish to switch back to Original Medicare should first consider their ability to enroll in a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan. Unless they have guaranteed issue rights, they will need to pass medical underwriting to get a Medigap plan. Individuals who have chronic conditions or recent health problems may not be able to enroll in a Medicare Supplement. In that case, Medicare Advantage will likely be their best option.

Medicare enrollment periods can be quite confusing. Fortunately, the agents at Local Medicare Specialists can help you understand which times of the year are most important for you. We will create a custom enrollment timeline and make sure you don’t miss any important enrollments. Find a local Medicare advisor near you and learn more about your Medicare options today!

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