When You Can Join, Leave or Switch Medicare Advantage Plans

Annual Election Period (AEP)

If you are not new to Medicare, you can typically only join, switch or leave an MA plan at certain times of the year. One of these times is the Annual Election Period (AEP) from October 15 to December 7. Plan changes are effective January 1 of the following year. Prior to this time, MA plans are required to:

  • Inform you if they are leaving or reducing their service area the following year
  • Provide information on future changes in benefits, copayments and premiums

In addition, MA plans may decide to close enrollment to new members except for those who are initially enrolling in Medicare or moving into the MA plan’s service area.

Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP)

If you are newly eligible for Medicare, you have an Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP) to join an MA plan that begins 3 months before you first become eligible for both Medicare Part A and Part B and ends on the later of:

Example 1: A person’s month of eligibility is April. His IEP for Parts A and B is January 1 to July 31. If the effective date of his Part A and Part B benefits is April 1, his ICEP to enroll in an MA plan is January 1 to July 31.

Example 2: A person’s month of eligibility is April and her IEP for Parts A and B is January 1 to July 31. She does not enroll in Part B because she continues to work and is covered by her employer’s group health plan. She retires and then enrolls in Part B, which becomes effective December 1 of that same year. Her ICEP to enroll in an MA plan is September 1 to November 30.

Submit your application directly to the MA plan or its sales representative. Enrollment is usually effective on the first day of the month following the month you enroll. You cannot receive coverage for medical care from MA plan providers until enrollment takes effect.

Note: You should not drop your existing coverage until coverage with your new MA plan is in effect.


Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP)

You can only leave a Medicare Advantage and return to Original Medicare plan during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP). You cannot join or switch MA plans during this time. The MADP is from January 1- February 14 each year.

This MADP replaces the former Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP) which was from January 1 – March 31 of each year.

If you want to disenroll from an MA-only or an MA-PD plan and return to Original Medicare during this time, you have a special election period (SEP) to join a Part D plan.

  • If you’re in an MA-PD, you can either 1) submit a disenrollment request to your MA-PD plan and then enroll in a Part D plan, or 2) enroll in a Part D plan first, which then automatically disenrolls you from your MA-PD.
  • If you’re in an MA only plan, you must first request disenrollment from your MA plan to trigger your SEP to join a Part D plan.

You can only enroll into one Part D plan during your SEP, and your SEP is only available during the MADP, January 1 – February 14. Your enrollment into your new Part D plan is effective the first of the following month.