Medicare plans can be easily changed but only during certain times of the year. These include the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period, Annual Election Period (AEP), or Special Election Period, all of which are explained in more detail below.
Annual Election Period
This election period is for individuals who are making a change in their plans for a number of different reasons including the following:
- Substitute a Medicare Advantage plan for Original Medicare, Part A and Part B.
- Substitute an Original Medicare plan for a Medicare Advantage plan.
- Maintain Medicare Advantage but change plans.
- Maintain Medicare Advantage but change to a plan that includes drug coverage.
- Maintain Medicare Advantage but change to a plan that does not include drug coverage.
- Substitute one Medicare Part D (Medicare Prescription Drug) plan for another.
This election period begins on October 15 and runs through December 7. Coverage begins on January 1.
Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period
While it can be done during the AEP, this election period is specifically for those who want to disenroll from Medicare Advantage and sign up for Original Medicare Part A and Part B. You can also sign up for Medicare Part D (the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan) during this same time period. The period begins on January 1 and runs through February 14. Your coverage will begin the first day of the month after the election form has been received.
Special Election Period
A few other situations require a Special Election Period including the following:
- A relocation.
- Meeting eligibility for other programs including Medicaid, State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program and group insurance through an employer.
- Meeting eligibility for the Social Security Administration's Extra Help to cover Medicare Part D.
- Losing coverage from an existing policy.
The election period depends on the circumstance.
When Disenrollment from a Plan Is Needed
The only time an action needs to be taken is if you wish to disenroll from one Medicare Advantage plan but not sign up for another Medicare Advantage plan. In this case, put your wishes in writing and forward to your current plan. If you wish to substitute Medicare Advantage plans or substitute Medicare Prescription Drug plans, simply enroll in the new plan and disenrollment from the old plan will take place automatically.