A Second Chance to Switch Medicare Advantage Plans
A new opportunity to switch Medicare Advantage/Part C plans is happening right now. The annual Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP) runs from Jan. 1 to Mar. 31 and offers anyone enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan an opportunity to:
- Switch from one Part C plan to another, or
- Switch from a Part C plan to Original Medicare and add Part D prescription drug coverage.
Think of the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period acts as an exchange period. Instead of having to keep a Part C plan you chose during the Annual Election Period (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7) for a full year, you can switch immediately after your new plan becomes effective on Jan. 1. Your new plan then goes into effect one month later. You are only allowed to switch once time during the annual MA OEP.
Many circumstances may warrant the use of the MA OEP. You may realize the doctor you want to see is not in-network for the plan you chose, or your out-of-pocket costs are higher than expected. Maybe you want freedoms not offered by Medicare Advantage plans like visiting any Medicare-approved doctor regardless of network coverage. Whatever the reason, you now have an opportunity to do so without facing any penalties. If you decide to switch to Original Medicare and enroll in a Medigap plan, check with your State Health Insurance Assistance Program for Medigap enrollment information.
The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period consists of two separate periods in which you can exchange plans. The previously discussed annual Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP) runs from Jan. 1 to Mar. 31. There’s also an individual Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period that starts and ends depending on when you first enroll in Medicare. The difference between the two periods is:
- The annual Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, Jan. 1 – Mar. 31, is for anyone already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan at the start of the year (Jan. 1) and would like to change coverage.
- The individual Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period is only for new Medicare beneficiaries who enroll in a Medicare Part C plan during the first three months they have Medicare. These individuals have an opportunity to enroll in another Part C plan or return to Original Medicare and a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan.
Both periods offer the same enrollment options, either switch from one Part C plan to another, or switch from a Part C plan to Original Medicare and add Part D prescription drug coverage. The only difference is when you’re allowed to do so.
How to use the MA OEP
Similar to other enrollment periods, to start searching for a new Medicare Advantage plan we recommend you start by taking our Medicare Questionnaire, created by the nonprofit National Council on Aging. You’ll get free Medicare advice from a licensed Medicare benefits adviser or local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to help you figure out your options and choose a new plan. Before you speak with a Medicare expert figure out what questions you should ask to find the best coverage for your needs.