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When you move, it can affect your Medicare coverage. In this blog, we’ll discuss various kinds of changes of residence—from in-state to abroad—and what they mean for your Medicare coverage.

First, let’s discuss how moving within the U.S. will affect your Original Medicare.

If you have Original Medicare, you will not need to make changes to your Original Medicare when moving out of state or within your own state. Original Medicare does not have provider networks, so you can visit any doctor or facility in the country that accepts Medicare. Although you do not need to make changes to your Original Medicare coverage, you should still contact Social Security to update your information to ensure that you receive important communications. You can visit www.ssa.gov, call 800-772-1213, or visit a local Social Security office to update your permanent address. (Note that Social Security offices may be closed during the Coronavirus pandemic.)

But what about Medicare Advantage Plans and Part D plans?

Medicare Advantage Plans and Part D plans, on the other hand, have coverage areas, so you may need to switch plans. You will have a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) if you move out of your Medicare Advantage Plan’s or Part D plan’s service area. You will also have an SEP if you move to an area that is still covered by your plan but where more plans are also now available to you. The length of your SEP depends on when you notify your plan of your move. To ensure you have coverage in your new place of residence, you should notify your plan in advance and select your new plan if applicable. You can use Medicare’s Plan Finder tool or call 1-800-MEDICARE to compare Medicare Advantage or Part D plans in the area to which you are moving.

Moving may also affect your cost assistance programs and/or Medigap.

Because the Medicare Savings Program (MSP), eligibility requirements are state-specific and MSP applications are processed at the state level, your MSP will not follow you if you move to another state. You will need to disenroll from your MSP and see if you are eligible for an MSP in the state to which you are moving. Even when moving to a new state, your Extra Help benefits will most likely not be affected, as eligibility requirements do not differ by state. It is important to note, however, that if you were automatically enrolled in Extra Help because you had Medicaid or an MSP, but then lose Medicaid coverage or the MSP because of your move to a different state, you will need to actively enroll in Extra Help to keep those benefits. You should contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to learn about cost assistance programs in the state to which you are moving. (Click the orange Find Local Medicare Help button below.) 

If you have a Medigap and are moving, you do not need to change your Medigap. You should still contact your Medigap plan to see if the cost of your Medigap will change. If you are moving to a different state, it is important to know that some states may have their own Medigap eligibility requirements and enrollment rules. You can contact that state’s SHIP to learn about their Medigaps. Again, use our online SHIP Locator or call 877-839-2675 (and say “Medicare” when prompted).

Moving abroad affects your coverage in different ways than if you are moving within the country.

Decisions about Medicare enrollment can be complicated if you live outside the United States. Although Medicare does not typically cover medical costs you receive when you live abroad, you still need to choose whether to enroll in Medicare when you become eligible or whether to keep your Medicare coverage if you are already enrolled. First, if you qualify for premium-free Part A—like most people do—it is usually best to enroll in Part A or to keep it if you already have it. On the other hand, Part B enrollment has different considerations because most people owe a monthly premium of $148.50. If you enroll in or keep Part B, then you owe a premium for coverage you cannot use while abroad. However, if you do not enroll in or keep Part B, you may have a late enrollment penalty and/or gaps in coverage when you return from abroad. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D plan, you should disenroll from these plans, because you will not be eligible for them while living abroad. You will have an SEP to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D plan if you move back to the U.S.

Your Medicare is similarly affected if you are incarcerated.

If you had Medicare before your arrest, you will remain eligible for the program while you are incarcerated. However, Medicare generally will not pay for your medical care. Instead, your correctional facility will provide and pay for your care. Once you are released, Medicare will resume coverage if you remained enrolled. It is usually best to keep Part A and Part B coverage while you are incarcerated to ensure that you avoid late enrollment penalties and gaps in coverage when you are released. Since incarcerated individuals have their Social Security benefits suspended, you would need to pay the Part B premium by setting up direct payment with Medicare. You can do this by calling 1-800-MEDICARE within 30 days of your conviction. If you cannot afford to continue paying the Part B premium during incarceration, you should actively withdraw from Part B and see if you qualify for a Medicare Savings Program upon release. Medicare Savings Programs can help pay the Part B premium for people with limited income and assets.

Still have questions?

Your SHIP is here for you! You can contact your SHIP for questions regarding your move and how your coverage may be affected. SHIP counselors are government-funded to provide trusted, unbiased Medicare counseling at no cost to you. (Depending on your state, your SHIP may go by another name.)

Use our online SHIP Locator (click the orange Find Local Medicare Help button below) or call 877-839-2675 (and say “Medicare” when prompted).