Medicare’s annual Open Enrollment Period, which runs from October 15 to December 7, is the primary opportunity for seniors to make changes to their Medicare coverage for the following year.

Even if you are happy with your current coverage, it’s important to review all your options since plans often change their costs and benefits each year.

Changes Seniors Can Make During Medicare Open Enrollment

During the fall open enrollment period, beneficiaries can take the following actions:

  • Change from Original Medicare (Parts A and B) to a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C)
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan (that does or does not offer drug coverage) to another Medicare Advantage Plan (that does or does not offer drug coverage)
  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D)
  • Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another Medicare Prescription Drug Plan
  • Drop Medicare prescription drug coverage completely

A Second Chance: The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

If you are unhappy with the choice you make regarding a Medicare Advantage Plan during the fall open enrollment period, there is another opportunity for you to modify your coverage. Beneficiaries with Medicare Advantage Plans can make limited changes during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period that runs from January 1 until March 31 each year.

Changes seniors with Advantage Plans can make during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period include:

  • Switching from one Medicare Advantage Plan (with or without drug coverage) to another Medicare Advantage Plan (with or without drug coverage)
  • Disenrolling from a Medicare Advantage Plan and returning to Original Medicare (If you choose to return to Original Medicare, you’ll also have the option to join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan)

Seniors who have Original Medicare are not able to make changes (e.g. switching to a Medicare Advantage Plan, joining a Prescription Drug Plan or switching Prescription Drug Plans) during this period.

Seeking Help with Medicare Open Enrollment Decisions

If you need assistance navigating the Medicare Open Enrollment Period and comparing your options for health and drug coverage, contact your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). Each AAA offers free health insurance counseling to seniors and their caregivers through the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). To find your nearest AAA, search the AgingCare.com Area Agency on Aging Directory.


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Sources: Joining a Health or Drug Plan (https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/joining-a-health-or-drug-plan); State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) (https://acl.gov/programs/connecting-people-services/state-health-insurance-assistance-program-ship)