You might be allowed to join, switch or drop a Medicare drug plan outside the
Open Enrollment Period
The usual case is that you must sign-up for a Medicare Drug plan during the Open Enrollment Period of October 15 through December 7. And then you must stay enrolled for a calendar year, which is Jan. 1 to Dec 31. In some situations, you can change your coverage at other times. These are called Special Enrollment Periods.
Some examples are:
- You move out of your current plan's service area
- Lose other prescription coverage that you had outside of Medicare
- Are enrolled in Medicaid
- Live in an institution (i.e., a nursing home)
- Qualify for Medicare's Extra Help program
Switching to a 5-star plan
If you want to switch to a plan that's rated 5-stars in its overall performance, there is a much longer period open to make the switch. In 2015 it was from Dec 8, 2014 through Nov 30, 2015.
There are some restrictions. You can only use this Special Enrollment once in period. You can't switch to a 5-star plan unless one is available in your geographical area
When You First Sign-Up for Medicare
In addition, when you first sign-up for Medicare there is a special Enrollment Period. It begins 3 months before the month you turn 65; and end 3 months after the month you turn 65.
If you qualify for Medicare because you are disabled, there is special enrollment process you may be able to use.
The rules for joining Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C Medicare) are a little different from this Part D discussion.
Web pages and sites to provide more information:
- Special circumstances (Special Enrollment Periods)
A very complete presentation of over two dozen situations that qualify as special circumstances.