Your best time to start researching and comparing Medicare plans is during the Annual Enrollment Period. During this period, you can change your current plan or coverage with most types of Medicare Parts. It would be very helpful to research all of your options outside of the enrollment period as well. This will give you a glimpse into any changes that might happen before the next enrollment period.
Staying on a plan that isn’t working for you can be very frustrating and costly. Fortunately, you have many choices with insurance plans. If something better comes along, you can switch to it as long as it is during the Annual Enrollment Period or Special Enrollment Period if you have a qualifying event.
What qualifies as a special enrollment period? When is your best time to start researching and comparing Medicare plans? Here are a few essential facts that you should know about changing or switching plans:
1. You Can Start Researching and Comparing Insurance Plans Anytime
There isn’t a limit to when you can start researching and comparing insurance plans. The process can begin at any time. You may choose to research and compare Medicare insurance plans before the Annual Enrollment Period, which begins on October 15th of every year.
It is also possible that plenty of options will present themselves during this period. However, here are a few instances when you may need to try finding the right Medicare coverage: When you
- turn 65
- get a new job or change insurance
- have to change your primary care physician
- are enrolling in an HMO or PPO plan
- find your current Medicare Advantage plan’s network shrinks or contracts
- have lost your job and need a new plan
The changing life events call for changes in your health insurance.
2. The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) and Special Enrollment Periods (SEP)
The AEP runs from October 15th through December 7th. This is the only period where you can enrol in a Medicare Part D plan without answering medical questions. The only condition is that you shouldn’t have missed any open enrollment periods since becoming eligible. The AEP is also your best time to start researching and comparing Medicare plans.
Special enrollment periods allow you to change plans if you have a qualifying event. Some of these events include loss of eligibility for employer coverage, divorce, or moving out of your plan’s service area. You can even switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan offered in your state during the open enrollment period. Certain qualifying events allow you to switch to Medicare Part A or B during certain periods.
3. You Can’t Change or Switch Medicare Plans During the Late Enrollment Period
The late enrollment period begins on January 1st and runs through March 31st each year. Your best time to start researching and comparing Medicare plans is outside of this period. The only circumstance where you would need to use the late enrollment period is if your current plan doesn’t cover a certain drug that you take regularly. In these cases, you must call the insurance provider before March 31st to remain on that Medicare Advantage or Part D plan for another year.
4. You Can Switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage or Vice Versa
You can switch from original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan or vice versa before the Annual Enrollment Period. If you decide during this time that you no longer need a Medicare Advantage plan, you can choose to leave and go back to Original Medicare. This requires signing up for Part A and Part B if you choose to go back to Original Medicare.
Switching From one Medicare Advantage plan to another is pretty easy. If you are already on a Medicare Advantage plan, all you need to do is provide form CMS-40A and form CMS-872D. You don’t have to answer any medical questions.
In conclusion, you can start searching for new Medicare plans and additional coverage whenever you want. However, it is most helpful after making significant life changes or when your current coverage no longer suits your needs.