Table of Contents:

  1. Moving Within Your Plan’s Service Area
  2. Moving Outside Your Plan’s Service Area
  3. Moving Abroad
  4. Moving Back to America After Living Abroad
  5. Dual Residency
  6. Reporting a Change of Address

There are several ways that moving can affect your Medicare coverage. How your coverage may change (if at all) depends on where you are moving to and where you are moving from. It also depends on the type of plan you have. Medicare Parts A and B (Original Medicare) have nationwide networks, meaning policyholders are covered anywhere in the country. This is not necessarily the case for Medicare Advantage (Part C), Medicare drug coverage (Part D), and/or Medigap plans. These types of plans may limit membership based on where people live. A “service area” is the geographic area where a plan accepts members. If a plan limits which doctors and hospitals you may use, the service area is also generally the area where you providers of routine care are covered. If you are moving outside the service area covered by your Part C, Part D, or Medigap plan(s), you may need to find an alternative plan that will cover you at your new address.

Moving Within Your Plan’s Service Area

If you are moving within your plan’s service area, there is nothing that should change for you in terms of your Medicare coverage. You may wish to revisit your choice of primary care provider, however. If you are moving to a location that is prohibitively far from your doctor, you may have to look for a new one. During this process, it is important to confirm that your new doctor accepts your Medicare coverage.

Moving Outside Your Plan’s Service Area

If you are moving outside your plan’s service area, you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) that begins before your move or at the time you tell your plan after you move. During the SEP, you can select a new plan that will cover you at your new place of residence. If you are able to, it’s helpful to tell your plan about your move plans in advance to initiate the SEP before you move, so that you will not have any gaps in your coverage.

If you are moving to a new state and are unsure if your new place of residence is within your plan’s service area, contact your plan provider directly.

Moving Abroad

If you are moving abroad, you can contact Medicare directly and suspend your coverage. The easiest way to do this is by calling 1-800-633-4227. If you don’t call to suspend your coverage, you will still have to pay your plan’s monthly premiums, even if you are not taking advantage of Medicare-approved services. For more information on how moving abroad will affect your coverage in the long term, click here.

Moving Back to America After Living Abroad

If you live abroad, you are not covered by Medicare’s services. In some cases, however, it may make sense to sign up (and pay) for Medicare, even though you cannot use it while living abroad. As AARP explains, “if you live outside the United States after you turn 65, and you are not working, the penalty clock starts ticking at the end of your IEP (Initial Enrollment Period).” In these situations, you must enroll and pay Medicare Part B premiums to avoid late enrollment fees, because moving back to the United States will not trigger an SEP.

If you are working abroad, you may be granted an SEP upon your return to America. This will occur if you received health insurance through your employer or through the national health system of the country in which you worked, and are moving back to America after your IEP ends. If you do not sign up for Medicare during your SEP, a late penalty will be applied.

Keep in mind that, in most cases, if a late penalty is applied to your Part B premium, this penalty is applied for life, and you will have to pay it monthly. The late enrollment penalty for Medicare Part B is a 10% increase of your monthly premium for each 12-month period that you are late signing up for Medicare.

Dual Residency

Many Medicare beneficiaries have multiple homes, or stay with family during portions of the year. Whether you like to spend your winters in a warmer location or you simply prefer the company of loved ones, it is important to know how living in multiple locations throughout the year will affect your Medicare coverage.

If you have dual residency (meaning you live in two locations), one of the places you live is your primary residence. If you live in two states, your primary residence is the state where you vote, hold a driver’s license, and pay your taxes. In most cases, doctors who practice in the state that is not your primary residence will be covered by Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B), so long as these doctors accept Medicare assignment.

Medicare Advantage and Part D plans’ service areas differ from plan to plan. If you have one or both of these plans, you should make sure to choose a plan that covers both of your locations of residence, such as a plan that offers nationwide coverage.

Reporting a Change of Address

If you are moving, make sure to report your change of address. For detailed instructions on how to do this through the Social Security Administration, follow these instructions.

Information adapted from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Medicare.gov

Additional information adapted from the American Association of Retired Persons and the Social Security Administration

When Does the Part B Late Penalty Clock Start Ticking?, AARP. 2014

How Can I Change My Address, SSA. 2020