People may want to change their Medicare plans for several reasons, including cost, convenience, and coverage.

For example, people may review their Medicare plans to find out the best cost and coverage options. People may also change Medicare plans after relocating, so they can access services outside their previous plan’s network. People may also want to increase or reduce their coverage as their health changes. 

This article explains the different ways someone can change their Medicare plan. It also discusses enrollment periods, other coverage options, and costs.

Choices when changing plans

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Two open enrollment periods per year offer Medicare users the flexibility to change plans.

People can switch, move, or change Medicare plans at selected times throughout the year. They may also decide to drop their plan.

Switching between original Medicare and Medicare Advantage

People can switch from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage or vice versa. Both Medicare and Medicare Advantage plan providers can arrange for someone to switch plans. Both processes involve speaking to a Medicare Advantage plan provider.

Individuals can switch between original Medicare and Medicare Advantage at any time during the first 3 months of their enrollment. After this time, they must wait for specific enrollment periods to make changes.

People with Medicare Advantage can switch to original Medicare by calling either Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE or their Medicare Advantage plan provider.

Learn more about Medicare Advantage here.

Moving between or changing Medicare plans

Improved coverage may be a reason for people to consider moving from one Medicare plan to another one. People can change the providers of their Part D or Medicare Advantage plans, but only during set enrollment periods.

Part D

A person who wants to add Medicare Part D to their original Medicare coverage should contact a plan provider.

Learn more about Part D here.

Medicare Advantage

A person can enroll in Medicare Advantage during enrollment periods. They can complete an online application via the plan’s website or call the plan provider and either apply over the phone or ask for a paper enrollment form. People can also call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE.

People keep their Medicare Part A and Part B benefits after moving to Medicare Advantage. However, enrolling in a new Medicare Advantage Plan with a drug plan automatically cancels a Medicare Part D drug plan.

Previous plans end when the new plan begins, without people needing to cancel their original plans. Plan providers send letters to their new members to advise them when the coverage begins.

Dropping Medicare coverage

People who decide to drop Medicare coverage can do so in several ways, depending on their plan.

Medicare Advantage

People with Medicare Advantage can drop their plan by speaking to their provider. Providers may disenroll members over the phone or send cancellation forms.

Part D

Unless special circumstances apply, people cannot cancel Part D plans outside the open enrollment period (OEP).

However, during the OEP, people with a Part D plan can cancel their drug plan by calling Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE, or mailing or faxing a written disenrollment notice.

People can also submit an online request to disenroll via the plan provider’s website or call the plan provider and request a disenrollment notice to sign and return.

Medicare Part B

People can opt out of Medicare Part B in two ways. They can ask for Form CMS-1763 from the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213, then complete and return the form.

A person can also call the Social Security Administration or their local Social Security office to arrange an interview to explain why they want to drop out of Medicare Part B.

For more resources to help guide you through the complex world of medical insurance, visit our Medicare hub.

When can a person change plans?

People can change their Medicare plans during two different open enrollment periods (OEPs). In addition, some Advantage plan members can change their plan during the first 3 months they have Medicare.

The annual Medicare OEP runs from October 15 to December 7. During this period, people can:

  • change from a Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan
  • change, join, or cancel their Part D drug plan
  • change from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage
  • change from Medicare Advantage to original Medicare

The Medicare Advantage OEP is from January 1 to March 31. People who are already enrolled in Medicare Advantage can:

  • change from Medicare Advantage to original Medicare
  • join a Part D drug plan
  • change from a Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan

The initial enrollment period (IEP is from April 1 to June 30. People who are new to Medicare and also enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan within their first 3 months can make changes. However, those changes must take place within the first 3 months of joining Medicare. During this time, people can change from a Medicare Advantage plan to original Medicare or change to a different Medicare Advantage plan.

Special enrollment periods (SEPs) are intended to cover times when a person may need to change their Medicare plan because of special circumstances, such as relocation or loss or change of coverage. The rules cover different circumstances, and a person can find more details here.

Other coverage options

Some people have other health coverage that complements or replaces Medicare. These other coverage options include:

  • Medicaid: A joint federal and state government initiative for people with limited resources.
  • Group health plan: Available through an employer or union. People may get these benefits through their own employer or union or a partner’s plan.
  • COBRA continuation coverage: An extension of an employee plan after employment ends.
  • Indian Health Service coverage: Healthcare for American Indians and Alaskan Natives.
  • TRICARE coverage: Healthcare for active and inactive duty military personnel.
  • Veterans’ benefits: Healthcare for retired military personnel.
  • Federal Black Lung program coverage: Healthcare for people with black lung.

People should speak to their other health providers before enrolling in Medicare. While Medicare can complement other health options, it might also compromise existing benefits.

Costs

It usually costs nothing to switch Medicare plans. However, people who switch plans may face higher premiums. Some people may also face penalties for switching to certain plans after the IEP.

People who opt out of Part B and then enroll later may pay 10% more on their premiums for every year they opt out. 

A penalty exists for people who adopt Part D after the Initial Enrollment Period without prior drug coverage. The penalty is 1% of the national base beneficiary premium. In 2021, this amount is $33.06. Medicare multiples that amount by the number of months without coverage.

Summary

People can switch, move, or change their Medicare plans at selected different times throughout the year. They may also choose to drop their Medicare plan.

There are four enrollment periods, which includes two different open enrollment periods, an enrollment period for some Advantage plan members, and a special enrollment period.

Higher premiums and some penalties may result from changing, switching, moving, or dropping Medicare plans.

The information on this website may assist you in making personal decisions about insurance, but it is not intended to provide advice regarding the purchase or use of any insurance or insurance products. Healthline Media does not transact the business of insurance in any manner and is not licensed as an insurance company or producer in any U.S. jurisdiction. Healthline Media does not recommend or endorse any third parties that may transact the business of insurance.