Relocating is a complex process. With so much to consider — change of address forms, hiring movers, and packing — it’s easy to overlook some lesser details that can slip through the cracks.
The last thing you may be thinking about is your healthcare coverage.
What does moving mean for your Medicare benefits? What is the process? Will your coverage change? These are just a few points covered in this article.
How to transfer your Medicare coverage to another state depends on the type of Medicare plan you are enrolled in. Sometimes, your current coverage will work just fine in another state. However, you may not be this lucky if enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. So, it is important to know how your coverage will transfer. Let’s walk through some of these scenarios.
TRANSFERRING ORIGINAL MEDICARE
The most important thing to do when moving is to update your address with the Social Security Administration. You may contact the Railroad Retirement Board to update your address if you are a railroad retiree. This will ensure that you don’t miss important updates about Medicare or that a replacement Medicare card will arrive at the correct location. Your Medicare A & B benefits will follow you to any provider who accepts Medicare through all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Finding a new primary care doctor to take over your care is important. You will want to do this as soon as possible to avoid delays to your care. It is crucial to ensure your new primary care doctor accepts Medicare so you can use your benefits when receiving care. Call the office and speak with them to ensure your physician accepts Medicare, or use the Medicare physician finder online tool.
CHANGING YOUR ADDRESS
As mentioned above, you must update your address with Social Security when you move to another state. Changing your address through Social Security is a simple process. To change your address, you must do one of the following:
•Visit a Social Security Office to update your information in person.
•Call Social Security at (800) 772-1213, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
•Visit SSA.gov to update your information by logging into your My Social Security account.
If you receive railroad retirement benefits, you can update your address over the phone by calling (877) 772-5772.
MOVING WITH MEDIGAP COVERAGE
If you are an enrollee of a Medicare supplement plan, you may be able to stay with your current plan if moving out of state. Medicare supplement plans offer standardized benefits nationwide. So, once you enroll in a plan, it can be used nationwide by any doctor who accepts Original Medicare. However, you must change your address with your plan’s carrier. This could result in a change of premium depending on your new location. You may also be eligible for Guaranteed Issue Rights to enroll in a new plan if allowable by your new state. You can enroll in any Medicare Supplement plan without underwriting health questions if this is the care. Keep in mind that Medicare Supplement rules vary by state.
CHANGING MEDICARE PART D COVERAGE WHEN MOVING
Medicare Part D plans help cover prescription drug costs. Like Medicare Advantage plans, which we will get to in a moment, Medicare Part D plans have different coverage areas. While the exact plans may be available in other states, the costs and coverage may differ. When enrolled in Medicare Part D, you will want to change your plan as soon as you know the area you are moving to. This will prevent a lapse in coverage. If your coverage lapses, you may lose out on benefits, have to wait until the Annual Enrollment Period to re-enroll, and pay a late enrollment penalty.
You will be granted a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to change your Medicare Part D plan if you move to a new coverage area. If you notify your Part D plan of a permanent move in advance, you have a SEP to switch to another Part D plan beginning as early as the month before your move and lasting up to two months after the move. If you notify your Part D plan of a permanent move after you move, you have a SEP to switch to another drug plan, beginning the month you tell your plan, plus two more full months after that. Finally, when enrolling in a new Part D plan, it is vital to ensure that all of your prescription drugs are covered by the plan and that there will be no surprises with coverage.
MOVING TO ANOTHER STATE WITH ADVANTAGE PLANS
If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan (Medicare Part C) and are moving to another state, you must enroll in a new plan within your new service area. Your existing Medicare Advantage plan may not work in your new state as Medicare Advantage plans have provider networks. These networks may vary from county to county or state to state. Since policies vary by county, moving will likely result in a necessary plan change.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you will receive a Special Enrollment Period upon moving. The Special Enrollment Period will allow you to change your Medicare Advantage plan, only when you are moving out of your current plans service area. So, if you’re moving down the street, you likely won’t qualify for a plan change.
During the Special Enrollment Period, you can elect to go back to your Original Medicare, choose a different Medicare Advantage plan, or you may be able to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan.
If you are moving or considering which plans to enroll in, you may also want to contact your destination state’s State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIPs are experts in Medicare, providing trusted, unbiased, one-on-one counseling and assistance with anything Medicare-related. Use the SHIP Locator at www.shiphelp.org or call (877) 839-2675.
(Joel Mekler is a certified senior adviser. Send him your Medicare questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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