Starting in October, there is a bit of hysteria in the Medicare world. This is because the Annual Enrollment Period is nearing – and most Medicare beneficiaries believe that this is the only time when they can make any change to their coverage.
However, contrary to what many think, Annual Enrollment Period is actually not the only time to make changes to your Medicare coverage. In certain instances, you’ll also have a period between January 1st and March 31st of each year to make changes. In other instances, you may have the ability to make changes to your coverage, if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).
The available periods in which you can make changes to your Medicare coverage depend on which type of Medicare you have – Original Medicare with a Medicare Supplement, or a Medicare Advantage plan.
Let’s dive into the different types of Medicare coverage and the periods that you can make changes to your coverage.
Medicare Advantage Plans
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you have two periods in which you can make changes to your coverage: the Annual Enrollment Period and the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period.
Annual Enrollment Period
The Annual Enrollment Period lasts from October 15th to December 7th of each year. During this time, individuals with Medicare Advantage plans may enroll in or disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan.
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
During the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP), Medicare Advantage beneficiaries can return to Original Medicare. This period lasts from January 1st to March 31st of each year.
The effective date for a MA OEP election is the first month following receipt of the enrollment request. During this period, you may add or drop Medicare Part D coverage. If you’re enrolled in either a Medicare Advantage with Prescription Drug Coverage (MAPD) or Medicare Advantage (MA) only plans, you can switch to MA-PD, MA only, or Original Medicare during this time.
Unlike Medicare Advantage plans, there are not specific periods in which you can switch or drop your Medicare supplement. You can generally change your Medicare Supplement at any time of the year. However, after your Open Enrollment Period (the 6-month period which starts the day you are 65 years old and enrolled in Medicare Part B), you will typically be subject to medical underwriting. This means that the insurance providers can charge you higher premiums based on your health history and current health status. They can also potentially deny you coverage altogether.
The underwriting requirements will depend entirely on which Medicare supplement company you choose for your policy. Some insurers will accept higher-risk beneficiaries – but you will likely pay with a higher premium.
If you have a guaranteed issue right, you should be able to make changes without any problems. You have a guaranteed issue right if your Medicare supplement insurance company goes bankrupt and ends your policy through no fault of your own, or you leave your Medicare supplement insurer because the company misled you. In either of these situations, you can switch Medicare supplement plans without medical underwriting.
If you do decide to switch your Medicare Supplement plans, be sure not to cancel your existing policy until you are approved with coverage from the new insurer.
There are many opportunities where you can make changes to your Medicare coverage. It really just depends on what type of coverage you have.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you have two time periods where you can make changes to your coverage. With a Medicare supplement, you can technically change at any time.
Nothing on this website should ever be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult with your medical provider regarding diagnosis or treatment for a health condition, including decisions about the correct medication for your condition, as well as prior to undertaking any specific exercise or dietary routine.