The Savvy Senior: How to handle your Medicare coverage if you move
Dear Savvy Senior,
My husband and I are moving to a different area of the country to be near our daughter. Will this affect our Medicare benefits? Will we need to adjust our coverage or re-enroll in a new plan?
Moving can indeed affect your Medicare benefits depending on the type of coverage you have and where you move to.
If you and your husband are enrolled in “original Medicare” Part A and Part B, you’ll be happy to know that you won’t need to change your plans when you move because they’re the same throughout the U.S. You will, however, need to notify the Social Security Administration of your change of address, which you can do at SSA.gov/myaccount/change-of-address.html or by calling (800) 772-1213.
But, if you’re enrolled in a Medicare (Part D) prescription drug plan, or a Medicare (Part C) Advantage plan and you move out of your plan’s service area, you’ll need to choose a new plan that serves your new area. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll need to do depending on the type of coverage you have.
If you have a Part D plan: If you’re in rolled in original Medicare and have a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, you’ll need to contact your Part D plan to find out if it will work in the area you’re moving to. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to enroll in a new plan that provides coverage in your new location.
You can make this switch the month before you move and up to two months after the move.
Otherwise, you’ll need to wait until the next open enrollment (in the fall) and could be penalized for having no acceptable prescription drug coverage.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan: If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, again, contact your plan to find out if it will serve your new area. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to enroll in a new plan that does. To shop for new Advantage and/or Part D prescription drug plans in your new location, see Medicare.gov/plan-compare.
You can switch Advantage plans the month before you move and up to two months after you move.
But be aware that if you relocate out of your Medicare Advantage plan’s service area and fail to enroll in a new plan in your new area, you’ll automatically be switched to original Medicare. This will happen when your old Medicare Advantage plan is forced to disenroll you because you don’t live within its service area anymore.
If you have a Medigap policy: If you’re enrolled in original Medicare and have a supplemental (Medigap) policy, you’ll need to notify your provider that you’re moving, but you should not need to change insurance companies or plans. (Note: there also are Medicare Select plans, which are Medigap plans that are network-based and are available in a few states. These plans may require you to change.)
Medigap plans are standardized across the country; for example, Medigap Plan F offers the same coverage in one state as it does in another state (Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin have waivers from the federal government allowing them to standardize Medigap plans differently, so plan designs are different in those three states).
But be aware that Medigap costs vary by location, so your monthly Medigap policy premium may be higher or lower depending on the cost of medical care in your new area.
Call your provider and tell them the new ZIP code, and they’ll let you know the cost. Sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised that it’s lower.
If it’s not, you could look for a cheaper policy. However, you may have to undergo medical underwriting. Medigap policies come with their own rules for enrolling, and some states have different enrollment standards than others.
Jim Miller is the creator of Savvy Senior, a syndicated information column for older Americans and their families that is published in more than 400 newspapers and magazines nationwide. Jim is also a regular contributor on NBC’s “Today” show and is the author of The Savvy Senior, The Ultimate Guide to Health, Family and Finances for Senior Citizens (Hyperion).