Medicare Disenrollment Explained: When and How to Drop or Switch Your Coverage

In this article...
  • What was once called the Medicare Disenrollment Period is now known as the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period and takes place Jan. 1 to March 31 each year. Learn how this enrollment period may affect your coverage, and find out how and when you may be able to disenroll from other parts of Medicare.

If you want to disenroll from your Medicare coverage, there may be certain times of year when you can do so. What type of Medicare coverage you have determines when you can drop or switch your Medicare plan.

One commonly used disenrollment period (what was long known as the “Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period”) was replaced in 2019 by the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, which runs from January 1 to March 31 each year.

If you have a Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plan, you may be able to disenroll from your plan and switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or return to Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B) during this period.

Read on to learn more about this enrollment period and to find out how to disenroll from other parts of Medicare.

When Is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA-OEP) runs from Jan. 1 to March 31 each year. Before 2019, when this enrollment period was previously called the “Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period” (or “Medicare Disenrollment Period” for short), it lasted from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14. 

Anyone who is already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan may drop their plan or switch to another Medicare Advantage plan during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. 

Can I Drop My Medicare Advantage Plan and Go Back to Original Medicare?

Yes, during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, you can drop your Medicare Advantage plan and switch back to Original Medicare.

You can also perform any of the following actions during this period:

  • Disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare AND enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan

  • Disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan and switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan, whether or not it offers drug coverage

During this enrollment period, you cannot enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan for the first time if you are not already enrolled in one.

To enroll in Medicare Advantage for the first time, you may be able to do so during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) or during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). You may be able to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan at other times of the year if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). Learn more about these important Medicare enrollment periods.

When Will Your New Medicare Advantage Coverage Begin?

If you take any enrollment actions during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, your new plan coverage will take effect on the first day of the month after your new plan receives a request for your coverage. 

For example, if you disenroll from your current Medicare Advantage plan on February 7 and enroll in a different one, your coverage under your new plan would begin March 1. 

Can I Disenroll From Other Parts of Medicare at Any Time?

As the name suggests, the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period is a time for those with Medicare Advantage plans to make changes to their coverage. 

For other parts of Medicare, you may make changes at the following times:

Medicare Part A

Most people do not pay a premium for Medicare Part A, so there isn’t much incentive to drop the coverage. However, if you do wish to disenroll from Part A, you may contact your local Social Security office

Medicare Part A provides hospital insurance. Because most people receive premium-free Part A, it’s typically advised not to disenroll from important Part A coverage.  

Medicare Part B

You may drop your Medicare Part B coverage at any time, since Part B is optional medical insurance. However, a personal interview with a Social Security representative may be required in order for you to drop Part B.

Medicare Part B provides medical insurance and helps cover outpatient care, preventive services, durable medical equipment and more.

Medicare Part D

You may drop or switch Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plans during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP, often called the fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period), which lasts from October 15 to December 7 each year. 

Under certain circumstances, you may be able to make Part D coverage changes at other times of the year if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

Medigap

A Medigap (also called Medicare Supplement Insurance) plan can be dropped at any time. However, if you disenroll from a Medigap plan, it may not be easy to enroll in another plan whenever you want.

If you disenroll from a Medigap plan without a guaranteed issue right, insurance companies have the right to use medical underwriting when they decide whether or not to insure you. They could potentially charge you a higher premium or deny you coverage altogether based on your health.