insurance

How to Switch Medicare Advantage Plans

Most people have to wait until open enrollment season to change Medicare Advantage plans. But you still have time to switch to traditional Medicare.

I signed up for a new Medicare Advantage plan this year but discovered that some of the doctors I want to use aren't included. Is it too late to switch to another plan?

You generally can't switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another until open enrollment for 2016, which is October 15 to December 7. There are a few exceptions, such as if you move to an address that isn't in your plan's service area. See the Special Enrollment Periods fact sheet at Medicare.gov for a full list of special circumstances that let you switch plans outside of open enrollment.

You can also switch into a Medicare Advantage plan with a five-star quality rating anytime during the year, if one is available in your area. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to see if there are any five-star plans based on your zip code. Such plans aren't common. Only 11 Medicare Advantage plans with prescription-drug coverage earned five-star ratings for 2015; they are available in certain counties in California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as in Washington, D.C. Five-star Medicare Advantage plans without prescription-drug coverage are available in certain counties in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.

If you don't qualify for a special enrollment period and don't have a five-star plan in your area, you can't switch Medicare Advantage plans now. But you do still have time to leave your Medicare Advantage plan and switch to traditional Medicare plus a Part D prescription-drug plan. The Medicare Advantage disenrollment period lasts from January 1 to February 14, and changes take effect at the start of the following month. For more information, see When Can I Join a Health or Drug Plan? You can also get a lot of information about your options from the Medicare Rights Center's Medicare Interactive resource.

If you take advantage of the disenrollment period, you could be rejected for a Medicare supplement (medigap) plan. Medigap plans fill in the gaps, such as deductibles and co-payments, in traditional Medicare's coverage. But if you sign up for medigap more than six months after first enrolling in Medicare Part B, insurers in many states may charge you more or reject you because of pre-existing conditions. (You must sign up for Part B whether you have coverage provided through Medicare or through Medicare Advantage.)

Most state insurance departments have information about their state's medigap rules, and many include prices for each insurer's medigap plans available in the area. See the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' contact map for links to your state's department. For more information about medigap coverage, see The ABCs of Picking a Medigap Policy.

Most Popular

2021 Child Tax Credit Calculator
Tax Breaks

2021 Child Tax Credit Calculator

See how much money you'll get in advance under the new child tax credit rules for 2021.
April 14, 2021
Monthly Payments of the 2021 Child Tax Credit Will Begin in July
Coronavirus and Your Money

Monthly Payments of the 2021 Child Tax Credit Will Begin in July

After doubts about whether it was up to the task, the IRS says it's on schedule to start sending monthly child tax credit payments this summer.
April 13, 2021
Child Tax Credit 2021: Who Gets $3,600? Will I Get Monthly Payments? And Other FAQs
Coronavirus and Your Money

Child Tax Credit 2021: Who Gets $3,600? Will I Get Monthly Payments? And Other FAQs

People have lots of questions about the new $3,000 or $3,600 child tax credit and the advance payments that the IRS will send to most families in 2021…
April 14, 2021

Recommended

Medicare Basics: 11 Things You Need to Know
Medicare

Medicare Basics: 11 Things You Need to Know

There's Medicare Part A, Part B, Part D, medigap plans, Medicare Advantage plans and so on. We sort out the confusion about signing up for Medicare --…
March 17, 2021
RV Insurance: Everything You Must Know
insurance

RV Insurance: Everything You Must Know

Selecting the right RV insurance is a big decision to protect your investment. Here's what you should know about the costs and different coverage type…
April 1, 2021
Deduct Expenses for Long-Term Care on Your Tax Return
Long-Term Care Insurance

Deduct Expenses for Long-Term Care on Your Tax Return

The IRS allows some limited tax breaks on medical expenses and insurance premiums related to long-term care.
March 23, 2021