Medicare Advantage Jan. 1-March 31 Enrollment Period Explained

While the Medicare Open Enrollment Period runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 every year, Medicare Advantage recipients are allowed to change their plans during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period which runs from Jan. 1 through March 31.

This is a special period to make changes, but there are limits to what you can do, so it’s important to understand the rules. Here’s what you can do during this period, if you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan (with or without prescription drug coverage), you can:

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan (with or without drug coverage), or
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and switch to Original Medicare (and a separate Medicare drug plan).

Whether you recently enrolled or have had your Medicare Advantage plan for years, you can take this opportunity to change your plan. If you’re looking to switch plans, you should ask yourself these questions about your current plan and any plan to which you’re considering switching:

  • Are your doctor and other providers in the plan network?
  • Are your prescription drugs on the plan formulary?
  • Are you comfortable with your costs, including premiums, deductibles, copays and coinsurance?
  • Do you have the additional coverage that you want for things like dental, vision and hearing care?
  • Are you happy with your plan’s additional benefits such as fitness programs, mail-order pharmacy, nurse line and other wellness services?

You can make only one change during this period.

Your new plan benefits will be in effect for the rest of the year starting the month after you enroll.

What you can’t do

While you can make a number of changes to your coverage during the first three months of the year, you are limited in terms of what you can do.

Here’s what you cannot do during this time:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Join a Medicare drug plan if you are in Original Medicare.
  • Switch from one Medicare drug plan to another if you’re in Original Medicare.

A note about Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans: If you want to change your Medicare Supplement plan, you can do so at any time. There is no official enrollment period for Medigap insurance, but you might have to undergo a medical underwriting procedure to switch providers.

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