How to Change Medicare Part D Plans

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Changing from one Medicare Part D prescription drug plan to another is a relatively simple process. You generally can change only during Medicare’s Annual Election Period, but there are special circumstances that may qualify you for a Special Enrollment Period outside the AEP. If you have a MA-PD, a Medicare Advantage plan that includes prescription drug coverage, there’s an additional option that lets you switch to Original Medicare with a Part D plan.

The Process

To switch from your current Medicare drug coverage to another, simply enroll in the new plan. You must enroll during the appropriate timeframe, though – the AEP, the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period, or an SEP – for your change to take effect. Your new plan will automatically disenroll you from the Part D or MA-PD plan you’re changing. If you’re currently covered by an MA-PD plan and enroll in a Part D plan, your health coverage will automatically revert to Original Medicare Parts A and B.

Annual Election Period

Changes made during the AEP, which runs from October 15 to December 7 each year, take effect on the following January 1. In addition to changing Part D plans, you can also switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage or vice versa.

Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period

The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period starts January 1 and ends February 14 each year, during which you can only switch back to Original Medicare. You can arrange for a Part D plan at the same time. The effective date is the first of the month after you elect the changes.

Special Enrollment Periods

Circumstances beyond your control may force you to change your Part D plan outside the AEP. For example, you might move and your plan doesn’t serve your new area, or you may have moved back into the U.S. Alternately, you might lose your current plan because its contract with Medicare changes or is cancelled, or your carrier simply decides to discontinue offering your plan in your area.. Other special circumstances related to your financial or medical situation, as well as administrative errors by federal employees, may qualify you for an SEP.

5-Star Special Enrollment Periods

The Centers for Medicare Services review the quality of service provided by each plan, including Part D plans, and assign them 1 to 5 stars. If a 5-star Part D plan is available in your area, you may change to it from your current plan from December 8 to the following November 30. You can exercise this option only once per year.

Reasons to Change

There are several reasons you may want to change your Medicare prescription drug coverage. Another plan may have more of your prescriptions in its formulary, or drug list, for instance, or may offer a similar formulary but a lower premium rate. Because of the changes that can take place in your prescriptions, the drug industry, and the many Medicare drug plans, many participants review their options every year before the AEP. There's a useful interactive tool to help you select the best drug plan for your needs at the Medicare Plan Finder.