Medicare guidelines can be strict. You can only change Medicare Advantage plans during the Annual Enrollment Period. This starts October 15th and ends December 7th. But what happens if you start this plan in January and realize you’ve made a mistake? Is it possible to switch back to the old Medicare plan you had? The short answer is yes, using the Medicare Open Enrollment period.
What is Medicare Open Enrollment?
Medicare Open Enrollment is the time between January 1st and March 31st. During this time you can only switch once. It’s important to note, you need to be enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that starts January 1st. This does not apply if you’re enrolled in a Medicare Supplement or original Medicare parts A and B only.
What changes can I make during Open Enrollment?
During this time you can:
- change to a different Medicare Advantage plan (with or without drug coverage)
In Nevada most Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage. You’ll want to make sure your new Medicare Advantage plan includes prescription drug coverage (if you intend to include it). You cannot buy A part D Prescription Drug Plan and a Medicare Advantage plan.
2. switch back to original Medicare.
If you use Open Enrollment to switch back to original Medicare, you have the option to buy a separate prescription drug plan (Part D). In Nevada, this does NOT give you the option to buy a Medicare Supplement plan without passing health questions.
Can I change plans multiple times during Medicare Open Enrollment?
No. You’re only allowed one switch per year during the Open Enrollment Period. Please don’t confuse the Open Enrollment Period (January 1 – March 31) with the Annual Enrollment Period (October 15th – December 7th). It’s amazing to see that even Medicare.gov gets these two terms confused. They are very different. The Annual Enrollment Period is when you can change Medicare Advantage plans multiple times. This window opens and closes before the plan starts on January 1st. The plan you elect closest to December 7th will be the plan you’re enrolled in starting January 1st. The Open Enrollment Period starts after the new year. It allows a one time switch during the first quarter of the year.
When does Medicare Open Enrollment end?
Medicare Open Enrollment ends either on:
- March 31st
- After you use your one time switch.
Can I purchase a Medicare Supplement plan during Medicare Open Enrollment?
You can apply for a Medicare Supplement plan at any time. However, in Nevada there are only certain circumstances that allow you to apply without answering health questions. In Nevada there is no Open Enrollment or Annual Enrollment period for Medicare Supplement plans. The only way to apply without having to answer health questions is:
- During a limited window surrounding your part B eligibility date
- Soon after ending employment provided health coverage (not COBRA)
- During a limited window surrounding your 65th birthday.
Otherwise you can still apply for a Medicare Supplement plan at any time. However, insurance companies will ask health questions. Your application may be denied if the health questions aren’t passed.
I had a Medicare Supplement plan and switched to a Medicare Advantage plan this year. Can I switch back to a Supplement during Open Enrollment?
If you’ve switched from a Medicare Supplement plan to a Medicare Advantage plan and feel like it’s the wrong decision, there are still options. There are very strict rules regarding switching back to a Medicare Supplement plan.
- You need to switch back to the same plan with the same insurance company you had before. If your old plan is not available you will have a guaranteed right into another Medicare Supplement plan. This means they won’t ask health questions but you need to apply with a different insurance company.
- You need to apply within 60 days before your Supplement coverage ends, or with 63 days after your coverage ends. If you apply before your coverage ends, it won’t end at all.
- This needs to be the first time this happened. This is a once-per-lifetime allowance.
I’ve simplified many of the situations I’ve outlined above. Hopefully this will help you understand it better but there is always a risk of being inaccurate about every situation. It’s always best to consult an expert about your specific situation.