In general, you can drop, disenroll, or cancel your Medicare Part D plan (PDP) 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
) when you are outside of the AEP -- or, in limited circumstances, a Medicare plan can involuntarily disenroll you from your plan.
Members of Medicare Advantage plans (MA or MAPD) also have the opportunity to drop their Medicare Advantage plans during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP
) that starts on January 1st and runs through March 31st of each year - with changes in coverage effective the first day of the month after your plan receives the change.
Automatic disenrollment by enrolling in another Medicare plan during the AEP.
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 Medicare 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, if you were enrolled in 2020 Medicare Plan ABC and on November 1st, during the 2021 Annual Open Enrollment Period, you decide to enroll in 2021 Medicare Plan ZYX. When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) processes your 2021 enrollment, they will notify your chosen 2021 Medicare Plan ZYX to start coverage on January 1, 2021 and notify your existing 2020 Medicare Plan ABC to discontinue coverage after December 31st, 2020.
You do not need to contact (or disenroll from) your previous 2020 Medicare Plan ABC yourself.
1. Disenrolling from all Medicare Part D coverage 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 is during the AEP by calling a Medicare representative at 1-800-633-4227. You will need to provide Medicare with your 11-character Medicare Beneficiary Identifier found on your new Medicare ID card
2. Disenrolling from all Medicare Part D coverage 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 coverage 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.
3. Disenrolling from your Medicare plan after December 7th by using a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).
Please note that most Special Enrollment Periods
are designed so you can change Medicare plans outside of the annual Open Enrollment Period (AEP), 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 (1-800-633-4227) 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.
4. Disenrolling from your Medicare Advantage plan after December 7th using the Medicare Advantage plan Disenrollment Period (MA OEP).
As noted above, if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan (with (MAPD) or without drug coverage (MA)) you have the opportunity to drop or cancel your Medicare Advantage plan during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP
) that starts on January 1st and runs through March 31st 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.
5. Involuntary Medicare plan Disenrollment.
Your Medicare plan can involuntarily disenroll you from the Medicare plan if you do not follow the plan rules. For example, you can be dropped from a Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan:
Important Penalty Reminder: No creditable prescription drug coverage may mean a permanent late-enrollment penalty.
- if you move out of the plan's Service Area (for example, you live in Ohio and move to Florida).
You will be granted a Special Enrollment Period when you move to change your Medicare plan coverage to a plan in your new state or Zip Code area.
- if you do not pay your plan's monthly premiums.
Important note - this is not a recommended way to leave a Medicare plan! If you stop paying your Medicare plan premiums, your Medicare plan can involuntarily-disenroll you from your plan, send your account to a collection agency, and possibly make you pay back premiums should you ever try to re-enroll with the same Medicare plan carrier – plus, after 63 days without creditable prescription drug coverage, you may be liable for a permanent late-enrollment penalty should you ever choose to enroll in another Medicare Part D plan in the future (see below for more about the penalty).
- if your behavior is deemed disruptive to the Medicare plan.
As noted by CMS: a Medicare plan "may request to disenroll a member if his/her behavior is disruptive to the extent that his/her continued enrollment in the MA plan substantially impairs the MA organization’s ability to arrange for or provide services to either that particular member or other members of the plan." However, Medicare plan must follow specific detailed procedures and receive CMS approval before disenrollment. CMS Medicare Managed Care Manual, Chapter 2 - Medicare Advantage Enrollment and Disenrollment
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 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 penalty for each month that you are
without creditable drug 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 2021 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 $19.84 (60 months without
drug coverage * 1% of $33.06 which is the 2021 base Medicare Part D premium) rounded to the nearest $0.10. This amounts to an additional cost of $238.08 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
Finally: Our 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 just "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).