| Wed, Oct 19, 2011 @ 09:00 AM

When Can I Join, Switch or Drop a Medicare Part D Plan?

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

Individuals can join, switch or drop a Medicare Part D plan during their Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), each year during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) or in certain situations, Special Election Period (SEP).Medicare Part D is a prescription drug plan that helps pay for medications. It isn’t automatically included in Original Medicare, so if you have Original Medicare and wish to add prescription drug coverage, you may want to consider enrolling in a Medicare Part D Plan.

Medicare Part D may be included as part of a Medicare Advantage plan, or (depending on what type of Medicare Advantage plan you have), you might be able to add Part D separately if you want it.

The times you can join, switch or drop your Medicare Part D plan depend on how you qualify for Medicare.

  • If you are “aging into” Medicare, you may join, switch or drop your Medicare Part D plan during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) – the 7 months enrollment window you’re first eligible for Medicare (begins three months before your 65th birth month, runs through your birth month, and ends three months after your birth month.)
  • If you get Medicare due to a disability, you can join, switch or drop a Part D plan during the 3 months before and 3 months after your 25th month of disability.
  • If you qualify for Extra Help, you can join, switch or drop your Part D coverage any time.

You can also change your Medicare Part D plan each year during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) from October 15 to December 7. When you change your plan during the AEP, your new coverage becomes effective January 1 of the following year. For example, if you changed your plan during the 2011 AEP, your new coverage would become effective January 1, 2012.

In most cases, you must stay enrolled in your Medicare Part D plan for a full calendar year after your coverage takes effect. However, there might be other times you can join, switch, or drop your Medicare drug plan. For example:

  • If you move out of your plan’s service area
  • If you lose other creditable prescription drug coverage
  • If you live in an institution (like a nursing home)


Once you’ve chosen a Medicare Part D plan, you can join by following that plan’s instructions for enrollment. Most plans offer a variety of ways to join, like completing a paper application, calling the insurance company that carries the plan, or by enrolling on the insurance carrier’s website or Medicare.gov. You need to have Original Medicare (Parts A and B) to enroll in a Medicare Part D plan. So remember to have your Medicare number and date your Original Medicare coverage started handy when you get ready to enroll in a Part D plan.


You can switch to a new Medicare drug plan simply by joining another drug plan during one of the times listed above. You don’t need to cancel your old Medicare drug plan; your old Medicare drug plan coverage will end when your new plan begins. You should get a letter from your new Medicare drug plan telling you when your coverage begins.


If you want to drop your Medicare drug plan (also called “disenrolling”), you can do so during one of the times listed above. You can disenroll by calling 1‑800‑MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or sending a letter to the plan to tell them you want to disenroll. If you drop your plan and decide to join another Medicare drug plan later, you do have to wait for the Annual Enrollment Period and may have to pay a late enrollment penalty.

For more information contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. You can also contact UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Made Clear to learn more 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, 7 days a week.


Understanding Medicare Part D – MedicareMadeClear.com

CMS’ Medicare and You – Medicare.gov

Medicare’s “Guide to Prescription Drugs”

Y0066_110803_151149 File & Use 08222011