Key Takeaways

  • When is it too late to change Medicare plans? Plan changes must be done during Open Enrollment and other select times throughout the year.

  • If you’re considering enrolling in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan, you should know the specific times it can be done.  

  • If you have employer-sponsored health coverage, you can delay enrollment in Medicare Part B until later. There are two ways to drop Part B.

Are you wondering “Should I switch Medicare plans?” or “Is it too late to change Medicare plans?” The answer is “it depends.” It’s a good idea to review Medicare your coverage every year and evaluate whether it’s the right mix of coverage, convenience, and cost. You should also be aware of when you have the opportunity to make the changes you want.

When can you enroll in or change Medicare plans?

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP), also referred to as the Annual Election Period (AEP) that occurs Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, is the time each year to review coverage and make changes to Medicare plans. During this time the following is possible:

  • Change from Medicare Parts A & B (Original Medicare) to a Part C (private Medicare Advantage) plan
  • Change from Medicare Advantage back to Original Medicare
  • Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan
  • Switch Medicare Advantage plans

If you're enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, there are additional opportunities to re-evaluate coverage during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Periods (MA OEP). The first is the annual period from Jan. 1 – March 31, when anyone with a Medicare Advantage plan can change plans during this time. The other is an individualized Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period that’s limited to new Medicare beneficiaries who enroll in an MA plan during the first three months they have Medicare. The MA OEP offers a three-month window to switch plans. During these times, you can:

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare and a standalone Part D plan

Signing Up for Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)

Are Medicare Advantage plans worth it? There are pros and cons you’ll want to carefully consider before you make a decision. Once you’ve decided to enroll in a Medicare Part C plan, make note of the specific times it can be done:

  • If new to Medicare—Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): this is the 7-month period when first eligible or Medicare. After enrollment in Parts A & B, it possible to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • If already enrolled in Medicare Parts A & B—The Annual Election/Open Enrollment Period (OEP): each year between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7, allows for a switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or vice versa.

Be aware that if you have Original Medicare with a Medigap/supplemental policy and you switch to Medicare Advantage, you most likely will not be able to get a Medigap policy again if you switch back.

The date coverage starts depends on the period of enrollment. Do not drop existing coverage, if any, until coverage with Medicare Advantage plan has started.

Only Enrolling in Medicare Part A (not Part B)

Can you decline Medicare coverage? If you’re enrolled in health coverage through an employer or an actively working spouse, it is possible to delay enrollment in Medicare Part B until later. If Medicare hasn’t started yet, there are two ways to drop Part B:

  • If automatically enrolled in both Part A & Part B and sent a Medicare card, follow the instructions that come with the card and send the card back. If card is kept, enrollment in Part B remain and payment for Part B premiums will be taken out.
  • If enrolled in Medicare through Social Security, contact Social Security.

Need Help Sorting Through Your Medicare Options?

Which type of care is not covered by Medicare? Does Medicare cover acupuncture? Can I get both Medicare and Medicaid? We know you may have these and other questions. If you need help navigating your options, NCOA has trusted partners committed to serving your Medicare selection needs and priorities at no cost to you.