If you are a Medicare recipient, whether as a new enrollee or one who has used Medicare as your primary insurance for years, you are probably already familiar with the different Medicare-related enrollment periods. These enrollment periods also apply to people who are insured by a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan.
Just as a reminder, there is the annual election period (AEP) from October 15 to December 7 every year, which is when everyone on Medicare or with an MA plan can make changes in their coverage. There is also the initial coverage election period, which is the seven-month timeframe when you are allowed to enroll in Medicare for the first time.
Disenroll During the AEP
What many people are not aware of is that there is also a disenrollment period for Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans. This is great information for those who want to make some minor changes or even completely change plans but fear they have missed their window of opportunity.
The first period of time that you may disenroll coincides with the AEP. From October 15 to December 7, you can choose to cancel your Medicare Advantage plan without enrolling in a new one. Of course, you need to make sure you have appropriate coverage by enrolling in Medicare instead, but you can also do this at this same time.
In order for disenrollment from an MA plan to take place (if you are not joining a new MA plan), you need to submit a written request to the company providing your plan, or contact Medicare directly.
You can also make the change from one MA plan to a different one during the AEP. When you do this, enrollment in a new plan automatically removes you from your old plan. Additionally, if you enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan instead of an MA plan that provides prescription coverage, you will automatically be removed from the MA prescription drug plan.
The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period
The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP) runs from January 1 to February 14 every year and is specifically designed for people who want to switch from a Medicare Advantage plan and enroll in Original Medicare. During this time, you cannot make changes to an existing MA plan, nor can you purchase a new MA plan instead of Medicare.
However, if your MA plan includes prescription drug coverage, you have the option during this time to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. When you do this, you are automatically removed from the MA prescription drug plan.
However, if the MA plan you are disenrolling from does not cover prescription drugs, you do have to submit a request to the carrier to cancel the plan. Only after you do this will you have a special enrollment period (SEP) in which to purchase a Medicare Part D drug plan.
When Will Disenrollment Be Effective?
If you disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan during the annual election period, your current plan remains in effect until January 1 of the following year. This is when your new plan takes its place. For example, if you disenroll in November, you are still covered by your MA plan until January 1.
However, if you disenroll during the MADP, your coverage begins on the first day of the following month. For example, if you disenroll on February 1, your Medicare coverage will begin on March 1.
Special Enrollment Periods
There are several different scenarios where you may qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP) and be able to disenroll from an MA plan outside of the AEP or MADP. An example is if you move to an area that is not serviced by your current Medicare Advantage plan. You will have the ability to either enroll or disenroll in an MA plan within three months of the move.
Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage. For more information visit www.MediGapAdvisors.com.