The 5-Star Special Election Period (SEP)
While you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan during your Initial Enrollment Period and the Annual Election Period, the Medicare 5-Star Special Election Period is a special opportunity for beneficiaries to switch to a 5-star-rated plan. The 5-Star SEP takes place annually from December 8 to November 30 of the following year. Plan coverage typically begins the first day of the following month after the plan receives your application; this is known as your coverage “effective date.”
Medicare updates its plan star ratings every fall. This can affect which plans you can sign up for. For example, if a Medicare Advantage plan has a 5-star rating for the current year, but loses a star for the following year, you can only use the 5-Star SEP to enroll in this plan up until November 30, for an effective date beginning December 1. You wouldn’t be able to enroll in the plan after December 1 (for an effective date of January 1 the following year), since the plan doesn’t have a 5-star rating for the next year.
During the 5-Star Special Election Period, you can only switch to a 5-star rated Medicare plan once between December 8 and November 30. During this enrollment, you can:
- Dis-enroll from Original Medicare (Part A and B) and enroll in a 5-star rated Medicare Advantage plan.
- Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan (with or without prescription drug coverage) to a 5-star rated Medicare Advantage plan (with or without prescription drug coverage).
- Switch from a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan to a 5-star rated stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan
- Switch from a 5-star rated Medicare Advantage plan to a different 5-star rated Medicare Advantage plan.
- Switch from a 5-star rated Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan to a different 5-star rated Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan
- Dis-enroll from a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan and enroll in a 5-star rated Medicare Cost Plan.*
*Medicare Cost Plans are a type of Medicare health plan that is different from Medicare Advantage. You can sign up even if you only have Part B. Some plans include prescription drug coverage, while others only cover Part B benefits. You can check with the individual insurance company for more information.