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How many times a year can you change Medicare plans?

You can make changes to your Medicare coverage during specified enrollment periods. There are opportunities each year to switch between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, or change Part D prescription drug plans. Understanding the different Medicare enrollment periods will help ensure you don’t miss making important coverage decisions.

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) lasts from October 15 to December 7 each year. During this time, you can:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare
  • Join a Medicare prescription drug plan
  • Switch from one Medicare Part D prescription drug plan to another

Any changes you make during the AEP take effect on January 1 of the following year. This enrollment period is important because it represents an opportunity to re-evaluate your Medicare options for the upcoming year. Insurance companies can change costs, coverage details, provider networks, and drug formularies from one year to the next. Review your options annually to ensure you have the most suitable Medicare plan based on changes to your health, medications, and finances.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period lasts from January 1 to March 31. If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can use this period to:

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare

Any changes made during this enrollment period take effect the first of the month after the plan gets your request. This enrollment window provides an opportunity to make a change if you realize your current Medicare Advantage plan isn’t meeting your needs or you’re dissatisfied with the plan.

Special Enrollment Periods

Outside of the standard Medicare enrollment periods, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) allowing you to make plan changes due to certain qualifying life events. Examples of circumstances that could make you eligible for an SEP include:

  • Moving to a new address outside your plan’s service area
  • Losing other creditable drug coverage like from an employer or union
  • Certain changes in Medicaid or Extra Help eligibility
  • Entering or leaving a long-term care facility

The enrollment period timeframe, and types of changes allowed, depend on your specific situation. Generally you get up to three months from the date of the event to make a change, with any election becoming effective the first of the month after the plan receives your request.

How Often Can You Change Medicare Plans?

In summary, here is how often you can change your Medicare coverage:

Enrollment Period Timeframe Changes Allowed
Annual Enrollment Period October 15 – December 7 Make changes to Medicare Advantage and Part D plans for coverage effective January 1
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period January 1 – March 31 Drop Medicare Advantage plan to go back to Original Medicare or switch Medicare Advantage plans
Special Enrollment Period Varies Certain events like moving or losing other coverage allow you to make plan changes outside of standard enrollment periods

The Annual Enrollment Period gives all Medicare beneficiaries the opportunity to review their options and make changes for the upcoming year. You can change both your Medicare Advantage and Part D plan during this time frame.

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period is more limited but gives you a chance to make a change if you find your plan isn’t working out a few months into the year.

Special Enrollment Periods provide flexibility to modify your coverage when warranted by changes in your specific situation.


You have the most flexibility to change Medicare plans during the Annual Enrollment Period each fall for the upcoming year. Medicare Advantage enrollees get an extra opportunity from January to March. And Special Enrollment Periods allow changes following certain qualifying events.

Carefully review any notifications you receive from Medicare and your insurance provider to understand the enrollment period options and deadlines. With a basic understanding of the different timeframes for changing plans, you can feel confident you won’t miss making important Medicare coverage decisions.