While enrolling in Medicare is not necessarily a complicated process, selecting which plan best suits your needs can be. Once you factor in supplemental plans on top of the ordinal plans, there are many choices to sift through. At least once you choose a plan you never have to go through all that again, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. It is quite possible that your needs will change as time goes on and a different Medicare plan could work better for you. Perhaps you need different coverage, or there is another plan that will save you money. So how do you switch plans? We’re here to help you through that process.

Change during Open Enrollment

One very important key to changing your Medicaid plan is to do it during Open Enrollment. Every year the Open Enrollment period runs from October 15th through December 7th. Your new coverage would then take effect at the beginning of the new year. For 2017, coverage would start as soon as January 1, 2017.

You might be eligible to change your plan during a special enrollment period. However, this special exception to the Open Enrollment period is for those who have specific qualifying life events. These qualifying life events include – but are not limited to – loss of current health coverage, change in household, moving, change in income, and becoming a U.S. Citizen. (link to special enrollment).

There are also special exceptions for Medicare Part C and Medicare Part D plans, which are offered by third-party providers. If your plan’s contract is not renewed or terminated by Medicare or the plan is sanctioned by Medicare, you qualify for a special enrolment period.

Adding supplemental coverage to Medicare

Because Original Medicare does not include prescription drug coverage, if you currently have only Medicare Part A and/or Part B, you don’t have any coverage for your prescription medications. For that reason, many folks opt to add an additional plan. There are two main choices for this: Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) and Medicare Part D plans.

To add a Medicare Part D plan, select a provider for your state and county and contact them directly. You may be able to fill out the forms online, or you may need to complete paper forms that can be mailed to you. You can compare the different plans available in your state to find the one that works best for you. (link)

If you would prefer a Medicare Advantage plan, know that this will actually take the place of your Medicare part A and Part B plans. When you make this switch, you do not need to inform your current plans of the change – it will disenroll you automatically. However, if you have another stand-alone drug coverage plan, such as Part D, you should notify the plan that you want to disenroll. Medicare Advantage cannot run concurrently with medicare Part D.

Switching supplemental providers

If you are currently enrolled in either a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plan and you want to change which provider supplies your coverage, you simply need to sign up for the new plan with the new provider. Enrolling in the new plan should automatically disenroll you from your current one. However, it is not a bad idea to contact your current provider directly to let them know to avoid any possible complications.

Canceling Medicare

If you are looking to outright cancel your Medicare benefits, there are certain steps you need to take. However, keep in mind that if you do not have any alternate health insurance you could incur financial penalties when filing your taxes. Additionally, if you go to re-enroll in medicare at a later date you may have late fees, higher premiums, and be subject to health audits before you can obtain coverage.

To voluntarily drop your Medicare Part B medical insurance, you will have to have a personal interview with a Social Security representative, who will help you fill out the necessary CMS 1763 form. To drop your Medicare Part D drug plan, you will have to do so during the Open Enrollment period of October 15th through December 7th, unless you qualify for certain exceptions. You can disneroll by phone, by mail or fax, or by submitting a request to the provider online. If you do so, keep in mind that if you go 63 days or more in a row without a creditable prescription drug coverage, you will most likely have to pay penalties to rejoin Medicare Plan D in the future. (link)

For a more detailed walkthrough on how to cancel these Medicare plans, follow our step-by-step instructions. (link)

by Lindsay Malzone, Lindsay Malzone is the Medicare expert for Medigap.com. She's been contributing to many well-known publications as an industry expert since 2017. Her passion is educating Medicare beneficiaries on all their supplemental Medicare options so they can make an informed decision on their healthcare coverage.