Open enrollment for Medicare may be three months away. But if you you are not satisfied with your current healthcare coverage and seek a change, then now is the right time to review and consider your options. Let’s go over what you need to know about switching Medicare plans.
You want to review your Medicare plans every year and evaluate whether it’s right for you based upon the following factors:
Open Enrollment is the time each year when you can review your coverage and make changes to your plans. Your options for changing plans include:
- Change from Medicare Part A and Medicare B (Original Medicare) to a Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) plan
- Change from Medicare Advantage back to Original Medicare
- Join, drop or switch a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan
- Switch Medicare Advantage plans
Dropping Medicare Part B to keep only Medicare Part A
If you have coverage through your job or an actively working spouse, you may not want to enroll in Medicare Part B until you need it at a later time. If your Medicare plan hasn’t begun yet, there are two ways to drop out of Medicare Part B:
- If you were automatically enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B, and if you received a Medicare card, then you want to follow the instructions that come with the card and send it back. If you keep the card, you keep Medicare Part B and will have pay Medicare Part B premiums.
- If you signed up for Medicare through Social Security, contact the Social Security Administration.
Adding Medicare Part C to your coverage
If you want to enroll in a Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) plan, you can only do so during specific times of the year. If you are new to Medicare, the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is a seven-month window during which when you are first eligible for Medicare. After you enroll in Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B, you can choose to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. If you have enrolled in Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B already, consider the Open Enrollment Period (OEP). It takes place each year from October 15 through December 7. During this period, you can switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or vice versa.
Be aware that if you have Original Medicare with a Medigap policy and you wish to switch to Medicare Advantage, you most likely will not be able to get a Medigap policy again if you switch back. The date your coverage starts depends on the period in which you enroll. Remember not to drop your existing coverage, if any, until your coverage with your Medicare Advantage plan has started.
Changing Medicare Advantage plans
If you want to switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, you can do so each year during the Open Enrollment Period, which runs October 15 to December 7. Once you select a new plan in which to enroll, you’ll be disenrolled automatically from your previous plan when your new plan’s coverage begins. You do not have to contact your old plan to disenroll.
Changing from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare?
You can leave your Medicare Advantage plan to return to Original Medicare during two times each year:
- Open Enrollment Period (October 15 – December 7)
- Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (January 1 – February 14)
In the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period, you have until February 14 to pick up a Medicare Part D plan for prescription drug coverage. During this time, you cannot switch between Medicare Advantage plans, nor can you move from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage. Your coverage will start on the first day of the month after the month in which you switch coverage.
Switching from Medicare Advantage to Medigap
There are generally only a few situations in which you are allowed to leave Medicare Advantage and pick up a Medigap plan, without being subject to medical underwriting. If you joined a Medicare Advantage plan when you were first eligible for Medicare, and you aren’t happy with the plan, you’ll have special rights to buy a Medigap policy if you return to Original Medicare within 12 months of joining. If you are moving to a different state or part of the state where your Medicare Advantage plan does not serve that area, you also have special rights to return to Original Medicare and pick up a Medigap plan.
Note: If you had a Medigap policy in the past and dropped it to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you might not be able to get the same Medigap policy back when you return to Original Medicare or, in some cases, any Medigap policy unless you have a “trial right” or “guaranteed issue” right.
Changing Medicare Part D plans
You can switch plans once each year, during the annual Open Enrollment Period (October 15 – December 7). But if you receive Extra Help with your Medicare prescription drug costs, you can switch plans as often as once a month.
There are special circumstances when you can switch plans at other times. These include:
- Moving out of the region that your current plan serves
- Entering, leaving or living in a nursing home
- When your plan changes and no longer serves your area
- When you get Extra Help with your Medicare prescription drug costs
Sometimes, Medicare Part D plans change formularies during the year. This happens when:
- New drugs come on the market or are taken off of it
- Generic versions of a brand name drug become available
- There are new clinical guidelines about the use of a medication
Part D plans are required to provide 60 days’ notice to all beneficiaries about a formulary change before it takes place.
Changing Medicare supplement plans
There are many reasons you may want to switch your Medigap plan. Whether you are paying too much for benefits you don’t need, your health has gotten worse and you need more benefits. In most cases, you won’t have a right under federal law to switch Medigap policies unless you’re eligible under a specific circumstance or guaranteed issue rights or you’re within your six-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period.
Switching from Medigap to Medicare Advantage
Medigap policies can’t work with Medicare Advantage Plans. Your Medigap policy can’t be used to pay your Medicare Advantage Plan copayments, deductibles and premiums. If you have a Medigap policy and join a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C), you may want to drop your Medigap policy.
If you later on decide to leave your Medicare Advantage plan, you might not be able to get the same Medigap policy back or any Medigap policy, unless you have a “trial right” or “guaranteed issue” right. Generally you will only have this right during the first 12 months that you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.
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Medicare doesn’t cover everything. Luckily, those on Medicare can now start saving on out of pocket expenses like prescription drugs, dental, vision, hearing, and more. Over 1 million people have already received their free Medicare Plus Card.