| Mon, Nov 07, 2011 @ 09:00 AM

How Do I Switch Medicare Plans? What If I Change My Mind Later?

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is essentially Medicare open enrollment, and you can make plan changes during this time.The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) runs from October 15 through December 7 this year. The AEP offers current beneficiaries an opportunity each year to make changes in their Medicare coverage choices. There are other enrollment periods for specific situations, but AEP is essentially Medicare’s open enrollment, and you can make changes during this time.

If You Have Original Medicare

Many people who have Original Medicare purchase a prescription drug plan (Part D), since drugs are not covered by Original Medicare. Some may also purchase a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan (Medigap) to help with other uncovered costs.

One reason some people decide to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) is that many of them include prescription drug coverage, so there’s no need to purchase a separate plan just to cover drugs. In addition, there’s no need for a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan either, because those plans are specifically designed to work with Original Medicare.

When you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you actually remain enrolled in Original Medicare. You’re just changing how you get your Medicare coverage.

If you decide to switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, there are a few things you need to consider:

  • You must be enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B in order to join a Medicare Advantage plan. You will continue to pay your Part B premium to Medicare. You may or may not pay an additional premium to your Medicare Advantage plan provider.
  •  If you currently have a prescription drug plan, and you choose to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that includes drug coverage, then you will need to disenroll from your prescription drug plan.
  • If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that does not include drug coverage, you may also join a prescription drug plan, keep one you already have or choose to go without drug coverage. If you decide to go without drug coverage, you may have to pay a penalty to get it later.
  • You will be automatically disenrolled from your Medicare Supplement Insurance plan, if you have one, when you join a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Keep in mind that if you disenroll from a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan, your premiums may be impacted, if you decide that you want that coverage again later.

If You Have a Medicare Advantage Plan

Medicare Advantage plan members can use AEP to switch from their current plan to another Medicare Advantage plan, or they can change back to Original Medicare.

Switching from one Medicare Advantage plan to another is easy. Typically, once you enroll in a new plan, you are automatically disenrolled from your old plan. It’s important to note that switching from a Medicare Advantage plan with a prescription drug benefit to one without may leave you vulnerable to a penalty if you decide that you want drug coverage again later. To avoid a penalty, you would need to join a prescription drug plan or get other creditable prescription drug coverage within 63 days.

You can switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare by simply notifying the Medicare Advantage plan that you want to disenroll. Your coverage will automatically revert to Original Medicare. If you make this change, you may also want to consider adding a prescription drug plan and a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan to your coverage.

If You Change Your Mind

Unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, you usually have to wait for the next AEP to change your Medicare plan choices again. One exception to this is the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP) that runs from January 1 to February 14. During this time, you can switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare. You can also join a prescription drug plan. However, during MADP:

  • You can’t switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
  • You can’t switch from one prescription drug plan to another.
  • You can’t switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.

For more information contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven 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 at 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.

Resources:

Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods – Medicare.gov

Medicare and You – Medicare.gov

Y0066_111005_115311 File & Use 10152011]