How you can change your Medicare coverage:
- Between October 15 and December 7, you can make several changes to your Medicare coverage.
- You must meet certain criteria to make the changes.
- Changes during open enrollment are effective January 1.
- After open enrollment, changes are still possible, though they’re more restricted.
- In states where the OEP ends Dec. 15, all plans will be effective Jan. 1.
- Schedule for 2018’s OEP (in the fall of 2017) was changed in April 2017.
- Limited enrollment prevents people from waiting until they’re sick to enroll.
Open enrollment is 54 days long
Open enrollment for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D coverage begins October 15, and will continue until December 7. During this annual enrollment period (AEP), there are several changes you can make:
- You can switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or vice versa.
- You can also switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, or from one Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan to another.
- And if you didn’t enroll in a Medicare Part D plan when you were first eligible, you can do so during the general open enrollment, although a late enrollment penalty may apply.
If you want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during open enrollment, you can do so as long as you meet some basic criteria:
- You must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and B.
- You must live in the plan’s service area (note that there are some rural areas of the country where there are no Medicare Advantage plans available).
- You cannot have End-Stage Renal Disease (some exceptions apply).
Changes will be effective January 1
Other opportunities to change your coverage
After open enrollment ends, there will still be some opportunities to make changes, although they’re more restricted:
- Starting December 8 – and through November 30 – you can actually switch to a new Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plan – if you enroll in a plan in your area that has earned the government’s five-star (excellent) rating.
- You can apply for a Medicare Supplemental Insurance (Medigap) plan at any time during the year. If you’re within the six-month open enrollment window that begins when you turn 65, the coverage is guaranteed issue. That is also the case if you’re in a special enrollment period triggered by a qualifying event.
- You can still apply for a Medigap plan outside of open/special enrollment periods – though carriers will use medical underwriting to determine whether to accept your application, and how much to charge you.
- There are several ways to leave Medicare Advantage, including the annual Medicare Advantage disenrollment period – which runs from January 1 to February 14 each year.
For a thorough overview of the changes you can make to your coverage, read How do I change my Medicare coverage?
Knowing your coverage options is critical
How well do you understand Medicare’s coverage options? Take our new Medicare Smarts Quiz to see if you are ready to shop for new coverage.
Ready or not, you can always learn more right here. The articles on this site are authored by a team of veteran healthcare writers who know the health insurance industry, understand the political battles over healthcare – and, most importantly, who know the needs of consumers.
In these pages, you can tap into an extensive collection of resources, including:
- overview of Medicare’s plan options and benefits, from physical therapy to hospital beds and hospice care;
- explanations of when you can – and can’t – change your Medicare coverage
- an explanation of the gaps in Medicare’s coverage
- eligibility and enrollment guidelines;
- a glossary of Medicare terms;
- answers to the most frequently asked questions.
We hope you’ll find the answers to all your burning questions. If you can’t, please don’t hesitate to send us your questions.