Changing Your Medicare Advantage Plan

Every year from October 15th to December 7th you have the opportunity to switch or change your Medicare Advantage Plan. This is known as the Open Enrollment Period and it also applies to Prescription Drug Plans (Part D). Certain special circumstances will allow you to switch or change your Advantage Plan during different times (See below).

How to Change or Switch Your Medicare Advantage Plan?

If you want to change your plan first review the coverage on your current plan including the yearly changes in coverage that will be mailed to you each fall. At this time you should also research what alternative plans are available. Make sure any plans you are interested in are open, that you live within their service area and that you have the latest copy of their coverage for the upcoming year. You will then be able to compare the various plans and decide which plan you want to switch to during the Open Enrollment Period. Try to apply early during the enrollment period rather than waiting until the end.

Open Enrollment

During Open Enrollment you can switch Advantage Plans, switch back to Original Medicare and join a Prescription Drug Plan if your Advantage Plan does not include this coverage. You can also switch from Original Medicare to an Advantage Plan.

Applying For a New Advantage Plan

To apply to a new plan you will fill out a paper application or call the new plan's representative or Medicare on the phone and they will help you file the application. Make sure you have your current plan card and your Medicare card available when you call. Call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE to enroll or enroll on their website at: Enrolling in the new plan will cause your old plan to dis-enroll you. You will not need to contact your old plan.

Auntie Lou says, "Ready for an IQ test? Changing Advantage Plans means learning a new plan."

Special Enrollment Periods

Special Enrollment Periods also exist for Medicare Advantage Plans. In general, when you move out of your plan's service area you will be able to select a new plan. Special enrollment periods also apply to people moving in and out of any institution including nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities. If you are no longer eligible for Medicaid or your employment status, your spouse's employment status, or the status of any of your retiree benefits changes you will also be able to change your coverage under the Special Enrollment Period.

Members who are enrolled in a Medicare Cost Plan or a PACE Plan and cancel their coverage will also have the ability to use Special Enrollment. If you have special circumstances of any kind and need to enroll outside of the Open Enrollment Period contact Medicare.

In summary, most people enrolled in Medicare can change their plan yearly from October 15 to December 7th. Review your options and plan coverage carefully every fall to determine if you want to change plans. Changing plans isn't something you should do lightly. All Advantage Plans are privately managed and structured differently. Every time you change your plan there will be an entirely new set of rules and regulations to learn and follow.