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I wish to drop my Medicare Part D prescription drug plan coverage - What should I do?



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Question: I wish to drop my Medicare Part D prescription drug plan coverage - What should I do?

Answer: In general,  you can only drop, disenroll, or cancel your Medicare Part D plan or Medicare Advantage plan coverage during the annual Open Enrollment Period (AEP) -- that runs each year from October 15th through December 7th -- or by using a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) when you are outside of the AEP.  Members of Medicare Advantage plans also have the opportunity to drop their Medicare Advantage plans during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP) that starts on January 1st and runs through February 14th of each year.

Disenrolling during the AEP by enrolling in another Medicare plan.
If you decide to change your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan during the annual Open Enrollment Period (AEP), you do not need to cancel your existing Medicare Part D plan.  If you submit an application for enrollment, Medicare will automatically contact your existing plan and let the plan know that you have joined a new Medicare plan and your existing plan will cancel your enrollment as your new plan coverage becomes effective.  (For example, you are enrolled in 2017 Medicare Plan AABBCC and on November 1st, during the 2018 annual Open Enrollment Period, you decide to enroll in 2018 Medicare Plan ZZYYXX.  When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) processes your 2018 enrollment, they will notify 2018 Medicare Plan ZZYYXX to start coverage on January 1, 2018 and notify your existing 2017 Medicare Plan AABBCC to discontinue coverage after December 31st, 2017.  You do not need to contact your 2017 Medicare Plan AABBCC yourself.)

Disenrolling during the AEP by contacting a Medicare representative.
If you simply no longer wish to be enrolled in a Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan, the easiest way to disenroll or cancel your Medicare Part D plan or Medicare Advantage plan during the AEP is to call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 and speak with a Medicare representative.  You will need to provide Medicare with your Medicare Claim Number found on your red, white, and blue Medicare ID card.

Disenrolling during the AEP by contacting your Medicare Part D plan.
You can also learn more about disenrolling from your Medicare plan by contacting your Medicare plan.  If you wish to cancel your Medicare plan during the AEP through your plan provider, your request to disenroll from your Medicare plan should be in writing.  You can call your plan's Member Services telephone number on the back of your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan membership ID card and the plan representative will be able to tell you what you should write in your letter and where the letter should be mailed.  We would suggest sending a cancellation letter registered with a delivery confirmation.

If you cancel your Medicare plan during the AEP ...
The cancellation of your current Medicare plan coverage during the AEP would be effective starting on January 1st.

Disenrolling from your Medicare plan after December 7th by using a Special Enrollment Period.
Please note that most Special Enrollment Periods are designed so you can change Medicare plans outside of the annual Open Enrollment Period, ensuring that you will continue to have affordable, uninterrupted Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan coverage even when there are changes in your life.  However, there are few specific situations when CMS allows you to use an SEP and disenroll from your Medicare Part D plan during the year, for example, if you already have creditable prescription drug coverage (such as VA or TRICARE coverage), you are allowed to disenroll from your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan.

Other Special Enrollment Periods allowing for mid-year disenrollment are:
  • you enrolled in a PACE plan (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly),
  • you have access to employer or union prescription drug coverage,
  • you are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, or
  • you are eligible for the Medicare Part D Extra Help program.
To learn more about disenrolling from your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan outside of the AEP, please call a Medicare representative (1-800-MEDICARE) and ask whether you qualify for an SEP that allows you to leave your Medicare plan.

If you cancel your Medicare plan during an SEP ...
The cancellation of your current Medicare plan coverage during an SEP would be effective starting the 1st day of the month following disenrollment.

Disenrolling from your Medicare Advantage plan after December 7th using the Medicare Advantage plan Disenrollment Period (MADP).
As noted above, if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan (with or without drug coverage) you have the opportunity to drop or cancel your Medicare Advantage plan during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP) that starts on January 1st and runs through February 14th of each year.  If you leave your Medicare Advantage plan (MA or MAPD), you will be returned to your Original Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B coverage – plus you are allowed to join a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan (or PDP).  Your new coverage will begin the first day of the month after disenrollment.

Reminder:  No creditable prescription drug coverage may mean a permanent late-enrollment penalty.
If you decide to leave your Medicare prescription drug plan - and are without creditable prescription drug coverage (for instance, you do not have VA / TRICARE coverage or employer prescription drug coverage) - and then later decide to re-join a Medicare Part D plan, you may have accrued a permanent penalty that will increase the cost of your monthly premiums.

More on the late-enrollment premium penalty:
Although the Medicare Part D prescription drug program is voluntary, if you drop your prescription drug plan coverage and do not have any other creditable prescription drug coverage (and are not qualified for the Medicare Part D Extra Help program), you will be subject to a late-enrollment premium penalty for each month that you are without coverage.  The penalty is calculated as a monthly premium increase of 1% of the national base Medicare Part D premium for each month you are without drug coverage.

Here is an example of estimating a 2017 Medicare Part D late-enrollment penalty.
If you were previously without creditable prescription drug coverage for five years (60 months), you would pay, in addition to your monthly Medicare plan premium, a monthly penalty of $21.40 (60 months without drug coverage * 1% of $35.63 - the 2017 base Medicare Part D premium) - for an additional cost of $257 per year.  For more information, please see our FAQ: What is the Medicare Part D late enrollment penalty?

For more year-specific examples of the late-enrollment penalty, you can click here to browse our Blog.

Suggested alternative to dropping your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan coverage:
Even if you have VA or TRICARE coverage, you may wish to consider enrolling in the lowest costing Medicare Part D plan or Medicare Advantage plan that includes drug coverage in your area and then just view your monthly premium as "insurance" that you have just in case your prescription drug needs or health needs change (in other words, look at a Medicare Part D drug plan as protection from the year's uncertainties - like your car or home insurance).


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