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If I move out of my Part D drug plan’s service area in the middle of the year, when can I switch to another plan? Or must I wait for Medicare’s open enrollment period in the fall?

En español | The service area of each stand-alone Part D drug plan — the type that is used by people enrolled in the original Medicare program — is statewide. So if you move to another state, you will immediately be able to enroll in a Part D plan in your new location — without waiting for Medicare’s open enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year. (But if you move to another place within the same state, you would likely need to stay with the same plan until open enrollment rolls around.) 

However, if you receive Part D drug coverage from a Medicare Advantage plan (such as a HMO or PPO), the service area is typically much smaller — sometimes no bigger than a county or a zip code. But again, if you move outside of the service area, you have the right to switch immediately to another Advantage plan that serves your new area (even if it’s within the same state), or to return to original Medicare and enroll in a stand-alone Part D plan in that area. 

In both cases (whether in a Part D plan or a Medicare Advantage plan) you get a special enrollment period (SEP) to switch to another plan, but the time frame depends on when you notify your current plan of the move: 

  • If you tell your plan in advance, your SEP begins the month before your move and ends two months after the month of your move. 
  • If you tell your plan after the move, your SEP begins during the month you notify the plan and lasts for two more full months.
  • If you don’t notify your plan of the move, your plan will disenroll you after six months, and you then get a SEP that lasts two months.  

Even if the insurance company that sponsored your old plan offers the same or other plans in your new home area, you can choose to switch to a different one if new plans are available to you there. 

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