If you are on a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D prescription drug plan and want to change your plan, you can do so during the annual enrollment period. This is the time when you can sign up for a new plan or make changes to your existing coverage. You can also switch from original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan or vice versa.
There are many reasons why people switch Medicare plans. These reasons can range from a change in health, a move to a new location, or simply finding a plan that better meets their needs. No matter the reason for changing your Medicare plan, it’s important to know how to do so without incurring any penalties.
How To Change Medicare Plans During Open Enrollment
If you’re on Medicare and want to change your plan, you have the opportunity to do so during the annual open enrollment period as well as the annual election period. Here’s what you need to know about switching plans during this time.
What Is Open Enrollment?
Technically, the Open enrollment is a period of time from January 01 through March 31 each year when people can make one change to their Medicare plan. The annual election period is from October 15 through December 07. This is the most well-known election period. During the Medicare annual election period, you can:
- Join a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan
- Change from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another
- Discontinue your Medicare Advantage Plan and return to Original Medicare
- Sign up for a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan if you have Original Medicare
- Switch from one stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan to another
- Drop your stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan
To change your Medicare plan during the annual election period, first research what plans are available to you. Then, compare the costs and coverage of each plan.
Look at factors such as deductibles, co-pays, provider networks, and prescription drug benefits when making your decision. Finally, decide which plan your doctors accept and best meets your needs and enroll in that plan during the annual enrollment.
If you found that your choice of Medicare Advantage plan does not meet your needs. You can make one change to a different plan during the annual Open Enrollment period from January 01 through March 31. You can also cancel your Advantage plan and move back to Original Medicare. However, you cannot change Part D plans during open enrollment.
How To Change Medicare Plans After Open Enrollment
You can’t make changes to your Medicare plan after open enrollment unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. If you want to make any changes, you must wait until next year’s open enrollment period.
However, there are certain circumstances in which you can make changes to your plan outside of open enrollment. These are called “special enrollment periods.”
These Special Enrollment Periods and the circumstances that qualify you for them include:
- Moving out of your plan’s service area – Usually, you have 60 days from the date you move to disenroll from your current plan and sign up for a new one.
- If your provider network changed significantly. Your provider network refers to the group of medical professionals who are part of an insurance company’s network (and who agree to provide care at discounted rates). If there were significant changes made to this network (such as adding or removing providers), then it could affect whether or not certain doctors will continue accepting your current coverage plan or not. This does not typically include changing one doctor. It’s reserved more for the loss of an entire medical or hospital system
- You marry, divorce, or legally separate from your spouse who had an employer-sponsored Medicare Advantage plan with you as a spousal participant. – if any of these events occur, you may need to make changes to your Medicare coverage.
How To Change Medicare Drug Plans
Medicare offers two types of drug plans: Medicare Advantage (MA) plans and Stand-Alone Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs). MA plans are available through private insurers that contract with Medicare and independent insurance brokers. Some MA plans include bundled Part D prescription drug coverage. These are called Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plans (MAPD). A PDP, also known as Part D, is stand-alone prescription drug coverage from a private insurer.
You should shop your Part D or MAPD plan every year during the annual election period. This is because your current plan can change each year. Your current plan may no longer be the most affordable option once your insurance company changes its formulary.
You can also switch plans if you have a qualifying life event, such as moving to a new state or losing other prescription drug coverage. That said, here’s how to change your Medicare drug plan:
Determine if You Are Eligible To Switch Plans
You can only do this during the annual enrollment period or if you have a qualifying life event. If neither of these applies to you, then you will have to wait until the next open enrollment period to make any changes.
Compare Your Current Plan With Other Available Options
This is where it is helpful to use a Medicare Plan Finder tool like what I created for you at https://partdshopper.com/. This tool lets you input your medications and shows which plans in your area cover them and at what cost-sharing levels (copayments, coinsurance, etc.)
It also takes into account whether or not you receive any extra help (also known as the low-income subsidy) from Medicare to lower your out-of-pocket costs. If you do not receive extra help, then it is important to compare plans based on their premium and deductible costs.
Choose the Plan That Best Fits Your Needs
This can be a daunting task, given the sheer number of plans available. However, narrowing down your choices based on whether they cover all of your medications and other health care costs at an affordable level is a good place to start.
Monitor Your Plan and Your Health Coverage Needs
Plans can change from year to year, and it is important to make sure that your Medicare plan continues to cover all of your health care costs, including prescription drugs, at a price you can afford.
How To Change Medicare Supplement Plans
In general, Medicare Supplement plans are standardized, meaning the benefits are written into Social Security law and cannot change. All plans of the same type have the exact same benefits regardless of the insurance company sponsoring the plan.
The only difference in Medicare supplement plans from one insurance company to another is your cost. This includes what you pay today and what you will pay tomorrow. We help you find the right insurance company with a history of price stability.
With that in mind, here is how you can change your Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plan.
Determine if You Are Eligible to Switch Plans
If you are currently enrolled in a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan, you can switch to another plan at any time. There is no enrollment period, and you do not need to wait for an annual open enrollment period. However, there are a few things that could affect your eligibility to change plans.
Outside of your Medicare supplement initial enrollment period, you can apply for a Medicare Supplement at any time, but you must qualify medically. The insurance company can deny you coverage based on your health history.
If you have both Medicare Part A and Part B coverage and drop your Medigap policy, you will want to get a new policy within 62-days. If there is a gap in coverage of 62-days or more, the insurance company can impose pre-existing conditions when you get a new policy.
You must have both Medicare Part A and Part B effective in order to have a Medicare supplement policy. Your Medicare supplement Initial enrollment Period is a six-month (180-day) period starting the first day of Medicare Part B coverage.
Identify Which Plan Best Fits Your Current Needs and Budget
There are 12 standardized Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plans available in most states: Plans A through N. Benefits included in these plans vary slightly, so it’s important that you choose one that provides the level of coverage you need. When shopping for a plan, it’s a good idea to meet with an independent insurance agent. This can help you understand the trade-offs between different plans and choose the one that best meets your needs.
Apply for Your New Medicare Supplement Plan
Once you have found the plan that fits your needs best, apply for it, and be sure to schedule the effective date of the new coverage will begin so that there is no gap in coverage.
When you apply for a new Medigap policy, you’ll have to fill out an application. You can do this online.
When you work with an independent insurance broker, it is likely your insurance application will be electronic. There is no “paperwork”, and your application is filed with the insurance company immediately. .
Your Medicare Supplement Plan rates are typically locked in for a year, so if there are any rate increases after that time, you won’t be affected. Only a few insurance companies do not lock in rates.
Notify Your Current Insurer About the Cancellation of Your Policy
When you are approved for a new Medigap plan and have set up a start date, then you can contact your old insurer and tell them that you want to cancel your policy as of the date on which coverage begins with the new company.
Failure to do so could result in you paying for two policies, which would be a waste of money. Furthermore, if you don’t cancel your old policy and something happens where you need to use it (even though you have new coverage), the claims could end up being denied because there is evidence that you had another policy in place at the time those expenses were incurred. This is called coordination of benefits.
So make sure to notify your current insurer about the cancellation of your old policy after everything is set up with the new company.
How To Change Medicare Advantage Plans When You Move
If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and are moving out-of-state, please note that the plan might not be available in the new location. This can happen when you move from one state to another or even if you’re just moving across town. It all depends on where your new home is located and what plans are offered there.
If your plan isn’t available in your new location, you can either:
- Choose a different Medicare Advantage plan offered in the new area (if one is available)
- Drop your existing Medicare Advantage coverage and switch to Original Medicare plus a Part D prescription drug plan.
A few things to keep in mind before changing your Medicare Advantage Plan when you move:
- Find out if your plan is offered in the new location.
- Compare the features of other Medicare Advantage plans available where you’re moving.
- Make sure that any prescriptions you take will be covered under the new plan.
Also, bear in mind that it’s best to switch plans during the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period that runs from January through March. Outside of that period, you may have to wait until the next annual enrollment period in October to make any changes to your coverage.
Medicare plans are a great way to keep your health insurance costs low and get the coverage you need. And the good news is that you can change your Medicare Advantage plans during the annual enrollment period.
If you are thinking about enrolling in a Medicare plan, or if you are already enrolled and want to make some changes, the best thing to do is talk to a licensed insurance agent. They will be able to help you understand your options and find the plan that best meets your needs.