Medicare Open Enrollment, which lasts from October 15-December 7 every year, allows Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C). A Medicare Advantage Plan is where benefits are provided by a private company instead of the government. There are pros and cons to Medicare Advantage Plans, which can be read about here. After enrolling, some beneficiaries realize their Medicare Advantage Plan will not work for them. There are a few ways to disenroll from the plan besides waiting until the next Medicare Open Enrollment.
Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period
The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP) spans from January 1st through February 14th every year. During this period, Medicare beneficiaries can switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare. Your new coverage will go into effect the first of the month after you request disenrollment. For example, if you request disenrollment in February, your new coverage will start March 1st. In this example, it is important to remember that you are still under your old coverage for the rest of February and you need to follow the rules of that plan.
If you decide to disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan, there are a few steps that should be taken. First, you should make sure that you are able to secure a Medicare Supplement insurance policy before switching. These policies cover the 20% of payments that Original Medicare does not. You can compare Medicare Supplement Plans here without giving any personal information. Medicare Supplement Plans can be changed 365 days a year, subject to health underwriting.
You will also want to enroll in a Medicare Part D Drug plan. One benefit of Medicare Advantage Plans is that they typically include drug coverage; Original Medicare does not. This needs to be done before the deadline of the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period: February 14th. Your drug coverage will begin the first day of the month after you apply for coverage.
Many times beneficiaries mistake what you can do during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period. Make sure to remember that you cannot:
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another.
- Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.
- Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another.
How Do I leave a Medicare Advantage Plan?
There are a few different ways to start the process of leaving a Medicare Advantage plan. The easiest way would be to contact your agent. They should be able to assist you in this process and make it a bit easier. If you did not use an agent or they do not know how to help, you can:
- Contact Medicare by calling 1-800-MEDICARE and request disenrollment over the phone.
- Contact the plan you are trying to leave and request the disenrollment form.
- Contact the Social Security Administration. You can do this by calling 1-800-772-1213 or going to your local Social Security Office. You can file your disenrollment request either way.
Is this your first 12 months on a Medicare Advantage plan?
If this is the first time you have ever joined a Medicare Advantage Plan and are within the first 12 months, you are eligible to switch to Original Medicare. You do not have to do it during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period, you can do it anytime during these first 12 months. Make sure to consult a qualified professional before doing this.
Special Enrollment Periods
Special Enrollment Periods apply when certain life events happen, like moving. If you qualify for one of these, you can switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare. You can read more about Special Enrollment Periods here.
Hans Scheil is the author of “The Complete Cardinal Guide to Planning for and Living in Retirement” and the accompanying workbook. He can be reached at Hans@CardinalGuide.com.