Medicare Open Enrollment, which lasts from October 15 to December 7, is officially over for 2021. But that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily unable to change your Medicare coverage.
Outside of the Open Enrollment Period, Medicare has several enrollment periods that you may qualify for depending on your life circumstances. Here are the ways you can change your Medicare plan after Open Enrollment.
Understanding the open enrollment period
From October 15 – December 7 is Medicare Open Enrollment. That means you can join Original Medicare or drop it during that time. You can also elect to switch between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans during this period, and select or change your Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. When evaluating Medicare plans, it’s important to note that many Medicare Advantage plans include Part D coverage — those plans are generally referred to as MAPD Plans.
If you’re enrolled in Medicare Advantage, there’s another open enrollment period to be aware of: Between January 1 – March 31, you can switch between Medicare Advantage plans or go back to Original Medicare.
Other important enrollment periods
Initial enrollment period
When you’re eligible for Medicare for the first time, you have an Initial Enrollment Period that lasts for 7 months around the date of your eligibility.
This enrollment period will apply to you if you’re becoming eligible for Medicare due to turning 65 or because of having a disability, or if you were already eligible for Medicare due to a disability but just turned 65.
Five-star special enrollment
You may have a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plan available to you that has earned the federal five-star rating. In that case, you can switch to that plan between December 8 and November 30 — which includes allows you to switch into that plan any time not covered by Open Enrollment. Not all areas have a five-star plan available, and you’re only allowed to make this switch one time over the course of the period.
Special enrollment period for natural disasters
People that live in an area that has experienced an officially declared major weather disaster or emergency may be able to qualify for a special enrollment period. These may include hurricanes, wildfires, tropical storms and other disasters, and special enrollment periods may be restricted to affected counties.
Qualifying life events
Certain major life events may grant a Special Enrollment Period. These can include moving, losing your current coverage, having the chance to get other coverage, becoming eligible for Medicaid, or having a severe or disabling condition.
Each Special Enrollment Period has its own requirements and rules about when you can make changes and what type of changes you can make, so if you believe you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period it’s best to research your unique circumstances or reach out to Medicare for more information.