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Can you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan anytime?

Written by:
January 17, 2023

Medicare Advantage plans offer a lot of perks over traditional Medicare coverage. If your current plan isn’t working for you, what can you do?

Choosing one of the 39 Medicare Advantage plans can be a daunting task. Luckily, you have a few options to change your coverage if your plan doesn’t meet your needs or if your healthcare needs change.

Your initial enrollment period

When you initially become eligible for Medicare, you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Evaluate your options  to ensure  you find a plan that will meet your needs. If you want to switch plans, you have up to three months to go back to the Original Medicare plan or pick a different Medicare Advantage plan.

Your first year in a Medicare Advantage plan

Once you choose a Medicare Advantage plan, you can test it out for a year to see if it’s right for you by using the “right to try” option. It’s called the Medicare Advantage trial period.

If you find the plan doesn’t meet your needs in the first 12 months, you can return to Original Medicare and buy a Medigap policy. You have the option to purchase a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan as well.

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is another opportunity to change plans. It begins on October 15 and ends on December 7. If you have Original Medicare, you can switch to a Medicare Advantage plan during this time. If you already have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may change plans or revert to Original Medicare.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

The annual Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period runs from January 1 until March 31. During this period, you can change your Medicare Advantage plan or switch to Original Medicare if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.

5-Star Special Enrollment Period

Medicare rates its plans from 1 to 5 stars (with 5 stars being the best) to help you compare options based on plans’ quality and performance. The 5-star Special Enrollment Period opens up an opportunity for you to change Medicare plans if a plan with a 5-star rating is available in your area.

This special enrollment period runs from December 8 to November 30 of the following year and can only be used once during that time.

Special Enrollment Periods (SEP)

If you experience certain circumstances throughout the year, you may be eligible for Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs). Events that could qualify you for an SEP include:

  • You move to a new address outside your plan’s service area.
  • You move to a new address that opens up new plan options.
  • You move into (or out of) a skilled nursing facility or long-term care hospital.
  • You lose your current coverage, such as Medicaid or employer-sponsored health insurance.
  • Medicare ends or doesn’t renew your plan’s contract.
  • You believe inaccurate or misleading information led you to choose the wrong plan.

There are many reasons you’d want to change Medicare Advantage plans. You might face an expensive surgery and want a plan with lower out-of-pocket maximums, need more comprehensive dental benefits, want lower prescription drug copayments, or be in good health and want to change to very basic coverage to lower your premiums.

Whatever your motivation for making a switch, you have the power to change your Medicare Advantage plan to make sure it suits your needs.

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