When it comes to how often one can change their Medicare plan, the answer to this question is usually once per year, during the Open Enrollment Period (OEP). With that said, we will look at some Medicare coverages and go over the time frames in which one can change Medicare plans without a penalty.
Changing your Medicare Part A & Part B to Get Part C
If you already have Medicare Part A and Part B but would like to change your plan to a Part C policy, this could be done during the Open Enrollment Period (OEP). This period lasts for three months and runs from October 15 until December 7 each year. This is the best time to switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare, or vice versa.
If you are new to Medicare, the best time to enroll is during the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). This time frame lasts for seven months and is for first-time Medicare beneficiaries. During the Initial Enrollment Period, a first-time eligible would be permitted to enroll in Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. They also could choose to add a Medicare Advantage plan to their portfolio as well.
Changing your Medicare Advantage Policy for a Medigap Plan
There aren’t too many scenarios that would allow someone to leave their Medicare Advantage policy to enroll in a new Medigap policy without going through medical underwriting. However, here are a few scenarios that would not require a person to have to go through medical underwriting again:
Scenario Number One – If this is your first time joining Medicare, you joined a Medicare Advantage plan but are no longer happy with the plan. By special Medicare rights, you can buy a Medigap policy. However, you will have to return to Original Medicare within 12 months of first joining.
Scenario Number Two – If you have moved to a different state, and your Medicare Advantage plan does not serve that area, by special Medicare rights, you can return to Original Medicare and enroll in a Medigap plan of your choice. You can also enroll in a Medigap plan of your choice if you have moved to a different part of the same state, but your Medicare Advantage plan doesn’t serve that particular part.
Changing your Part D Plan
When it comes to switching Medicare policies, this is usually only allowed once per year. However, if someone needs Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) assistance with their Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, they might be allowed to switch as often as once per month.
For other situations that do not require LIS assistance, a Medicare beneficiary can change their Part D plan during these exceptional circumstances:
- Move out of the area that your plan serves.
- You are entering, leaving, or currently living in a nursing home.
- Your prescription drug plan changed, and you are now out of the servicing area.
Special Enrollment Period
Life happens, and Medicare was designed with this in mind to be more flexible for its Medicare beneficiaries. If you go through what Medicare refers to as a “special circumstance,” you will be allowed to change Medicare plans during the Special Enrollment Period. There are many unique circumstances that Medicare has accounted for, but here are a few of the more common ones:
- You moved to a new address.
- You are losing coverage.
- You move back to the United States after living in another country.
- You have just been released from incarceration.
- You are no longer eligible to receive Medicaid.
- You left coverage from your employer and/or union, which included Cobra.
As personal health care needs tend to change over time, there might come a scenario in your life that will require you to change Medicare plans to receive the best coverage possible. However, changing Medicare plans does not have to be scary. The critical factor here is to check your policy each year and never let it auto-enroll you without first verifying if your coverage is changing.
Also, concerning Medicare Advantage plans, you are allowed to disenroll from these policies. But, if you do not plan to sign up for another Medicare Advantage policy, you must notify the plan in writing. However, if you plan to disenroll and enroll in another Medicare Advantage plan or a similar prescription drug plan, you do not need to notify the plan in writing. You only need to sign up for the new plan, and you will be automatically disenrolled from the old one.