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Thinking of switching Medicare Advantage plans?

By The Health News Team | November 11, 2023
2022 planning calendar with coffee and a notebook

Whether you’re looking for a Medicare Advantage plan with more coverage, higher quality or lower costs, you can only make changes to your Medicare coverage during certain times of the year. These are known as enrollment periods, and they take place just two times a year.

The two enrollment periods for making changes are Medicare’s open enrollment period and Medicare Advantage open enrollment period.

“Mark the enrollment period dates in your calendar,” says Don Truong, director of sales at Sharp Health Plan. “Many Medicare Advantage plans offer $0 monthly premiums, $0 doctor visits, comprehensive dental benefits, vision and hearing aid allowances, global emergency services and more. Missing these dates can mean missing out on extra coverage.”

Medicare Open Enrollment Period

Oct. 15 to Dec. 7

Changes you can make

  • Change from original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan

  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to original Medicare

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan

  • Switch to a different Medicare drug plan

  • Join a Medicare drug plan

  • Drop your Medicare drug coverage completely

Your new coverage begins

Jan. 1

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

Jan. 1 to March 31

Changes you can make

People with Medicare Advantage can make one of the following changes:

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan

  • Disenroll from your plan and return to original Medicare

During this period, people with original Medicare cannot:

  • Change to a Medicare Advantage plan

  • Join a Medicare drug plan

  • Switch to a different Medicare drug plan

Your new coverage begins

The first day of the month after you ask to join a plan

Special circumstances allow you to make plan changes any time of the year
When certain events happen in your life, such as moving or leaving coverage from your employer or union, you get an opportunity to change your Medicare health and drug coverage. These opportunities are called “special enrollment periods.”

Many situations qualify you for a special enrollment period, and each situation has different rules. You can read details about special enrollment periods at

Look for quality when considering a new plan
Not all Medicare Advantage plans are the same. Medicare helps shoppers compare the quality of plans by assigning star ratings to Medicare health and drug plans.

Every year, Medicare evaluates plans based on a five-star rating system. Five stars means excellent overall quality and performance. “Choosing a plan with a lower star rating can impact the quality of care or service you receive,” Truong says.

Medicare's star ratings for 2024 were released last month. You can use Medicare’s plan finder tool to see plans’ star ratings. According to Truong, Sharp Health Plan is the highest-rated Medicare Advantage plan in California, with a 4.5-star rating from Medicare for 2024.

"Sharp Health Plan was also the only plan to be included in the 2024 U.S. News and World Report list of Best Insurance Companies for Medicare Advantage in California," Troung says. "It's great validation to our entire team that we're delivering the same benefits as Original Medicare and more at the highest level of quality."

Get help understanding your options
Free help is available to learn more about your Medicare health and drug coverage options. Truong recommends these trusted resources:

  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). Medicare is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. TTY and TDD users should call 1-877-486-2048.

  • Contact the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP). HICAP provides objective information and counseling about Medicare. Call California’s HICAP hotline at 1-800-434-0222 or contact the San Diego HICAP office at 858-565-8772 from 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays.

  • Read “Medicare & You 2024” Every fall, this booklet is mailed to people with Medicare. It has a summary of Medicare benefits, rights and protections, and answers to the most frequently asked questions about Medicare. You can get a copy of this booklet from

  • Reach out to Sharp Health Plan. Certified enrollment specialists are available to answer your questions and offer advice to help you find the best plan for your health needs. You can reach them by email or phone at 858-499-8232. Or go to for more information.

When shopping for Medicare, Truong recommends marking your calendar with Medicare’s enrollment dates. He also encourages you to remember that quality matters and it's important to get personalized help to find the right, most cost-effective plan for you.

Learn more about Medicare health insurance at Sharp HealthCare; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News.

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