retirement

Switching to a New Medicare Advantage Plan Gets Easier

New rules in 2019 give consumers more time and options to change their Medicare Advantage plan if they don't like it.

Question: I switched to a different Medicare Advantage plan for 2019 because the premiums were lower than my previous plan. But I found that some of the doctors and hospitals I want to use aren't covered by the new plan. Can I switch again?

Answer: Yes. Previously, if you were unhappy with your Medicare Advantage plan you chose during the fall enrollment, you were either stuck with it or you had from January 1 to February 14 to switch to traditional Medicare and get a Part D policy. But new rules starting in 2019 give consumers more flexibility—and time.

Now, if you're unhappy with your choice of plan, you have from January 1 to March 31 to swap one Medicare Advantage plan for another. You can also switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to traditional Medicare with a Part D policy. However, there's no guarantee that you will qualify for a medigap policy, which supplements traditional Medicare and helps with co-payments and deductibles. Insurers can reject you for Medigap coverage or charge more because of preexisting conditions if more than six months have passed since you signed up for Medicare Part B.

You can check out the plan options in your area, including premiums, coverage and estimated out-of-pocket costs for your drugs and general health condition, with the Medicare Plan Finder (Medicare Advantage plans are called "Medicare Health Plans" in the tool). Ask the doctors you'd like to use what plans they're covered by, and contact the plans you're considering to double check that those doctors are included.

After March 31 you still may have some limited opportunities to change plans. You can switch into a Medicare Advantage plan with a five-star quality rating anytime during the year, if one is available in your area. "We're enrolling year-round," says Agnes Strandberg of Kaiser Permanente, which has five-star plans in several states. But there are only 14 five-star plans in 2019, and many states or counties don't have one. You can look up the plans' star ratings for your zip code at the Medicare Plan Finder.

You can also switch plans if you qualify for a "special enrollment period," such as if you move out of your plan's service area. For more information about the rules for special enrollment periods, see Medicares Understanding Medicare Part C and Part D Enrollment Periods (Part C is Medicare Advantage plans).

Otherwise, you have to wait until the next open enrollment period, from October 15 to December 7, 2019, for new coverage to begin January 1, 2020.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
How to Calculate the Break-Even Age for Taking Social Security
social security

How to Calculate the Break-Even Age for Taking Social Security

When it comes to maximizing your Social Security benefits, there are many elements to consider. One factor that can be especially enlightening is your…
August 30, 2021
Spend Without Worry in Retirement
Financial Planning

Spend Without Worry in Retirement

Fears of running out of money prevent many retirees from tapping the nest egg they’ve worked a lifetime to save. With these strategies, you can genera…
August 30, 2021

Recommended

What Is the Social Security COLA?
retirement

What Is the Social Security COLA?

This year especially, cost-of-living adjustments are late to the party, as consumers are feeling the effect of price spikes now.
September 16, 2021
Retirees Likely to Receive Significant Bump in Social Security Benefits in 2022
social security

Retirees Likely to Receive Significant Bump in Social Security Benefits in 2022

The cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security benefits for next year is expected to be the largest since 1982.
September 16, 2021
The RMD Solution to the Hassle of Filing Estimated Taxes in Retirement
required minimum distributions (RMDs)

The RMD Solution to the Hassle of Filing Estimated Taxes in Retirement

If you don't need the money to live on, wait until December to take your RMD and ask the sponsor to withhold a big chunk for the IRS.
September 14, 2021
When Retirees Need to File an Amended Tax Return
tax returns

When Retirees Need to File an Amended Tax Return

Realizing that you made a mistake after filing your tax return can be panic-inducing for retirees (or anyone else). But don't stress. You may not need…
September 13, 2021