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 Away
Dear Moving: 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 to do, depending on the type of coverage you have.
>> If you have a Part D plan: If you’re enrolled in original Medicare and have a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, contact your Part D plan to find out whether it will still apply in the area where you move. If not, you’ll need to enroll in a 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 whether it will serve your new area. If it doesn’t, enroll in a new plan that does. To shop for new Advantage and/or Part D prescription drug plans, see Medicare.gov/plan-compare.
You can switch Advantage plans the month before you move and up to two months after you move.
Be aware that if you relocate out of your Medicare Advantage plan’s service area and fail to enroll in a new plan, you’ll automatically be switched to original Medicare. This will happen when your old Medicare Advantage plan disenrolls you because you don’t live within its service area.
>> If you have a Medigap policy: If you’re enrolled in original Medicare and have a supplemental (Medigap) policy, you should 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 available in a few states. These plans might 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. (However, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin have waivers from the federal government allowing them to standardize Medigap plans differently, so plans are designed differently in those 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. To find out, call your provider and give them your new ZIP code, and they’ll tell you the cost.
If it’s higher, you can look for a cheaper policy. However, that might entail medical underwriting. Medigap policies come with their own rules for enrolling, and enrollment standards can vary from state to state.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.