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 Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP)

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP) runs from January 1 – March 31 each year. It allows you, if you’re already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, to:

  • Switch to another Medicare Advantage plan (with or without drug coverage), or
  • Disenroll and return to Original Medicare. If you do so, you can also join a Part D prescription drug plan.

If you switch plans, enrolling into your new plan will trigger your automatic disenrollment from your old plan. If you return to Original Medicare, you can either 1) submit a disenrollment request to your MA plan and then enroll into a stand-alone Part D plan, or 2) enroll in a stand-alone Part D plan, which will trigger your automatic disenrollment from  your MA plan.

Your enrollment into your new plan, or your return to Original Medicare with or without a Part D plan will be effective the first of the following month during this 3-month window.

 

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