How to Cancel Medicare Part B

Canceling Medicare Part B usually involves contacting the Social Security Administration, but ending it comes with some risks.

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It’s not difficult to cancel Medicare Part B, however, doing so might result in a health coverage gap — and/or a late enrollment penalty if you enroll again at a later date.

Medicare Part B is Original Medicare’s medical insurance portion. It covers medically necessary and preventive services like doctor visits and other outpatient care.

Here’s what you need to know about canceling Medicare Part B coverage.

Reasons to cancel Medicare Part B

You’re not required to keep Medicare Part B, although most people do. Some people may think about canceling Part B if:

  • They have other health insurance.

  • They think they can’t afford the monthly premium.

If you’re not working, but you have health coverage through a former employer, the Health Insurance Marketplace, Veterans Affairs, a private insurer, Medicaid or COBRA, you may want to consider hanging onto Medicare Part B even if you’re tempted to drop it. When you keep Medicare Part B, it becomes your primary insurer (where you submit your claims first). Then, you’ll be able to submit any expenses Part B doesn’t cover to your non-Medicare secondary policy.

If you’re on Medicaid and are worried about Part B premium costs, there’s no cause for concern. As long as you stay on Medicaid, your state will pick up the cost of your Part B premiums. Additionally, anyone who thinks they can’t afford Part B premiums is encouraged to apply for a Medicare Savings Program, which may help cover that cost and more.

The only situation where it might make sense to not keep Part B is if you’re still working and have health insurance through an employer that has 20 or more employees — or if you’re covered by your spouse’s employer-provided health insurance.

Risks of canceling Medicare Part B coverage

Before canceling Part B coverage, it’s important to understand the possible risks:

  • You may experience a gap in health coverage. If you decide to reinstate Medicare Part B later, you may have to wait until the next general enrollment period (Jan. 1 to March 31 of each year) to enroll. Then, Part B coverage begins on July 1 of that year, so if you don’t have other coverage, you may be stuck without health insurance until that time.

  • You may be subject to a permanent late enrollment penalty if you decide to re-enroll. Unless you qualify for a special enrollment period to sign up for Medicare Part B, you’ll be charged a monthly late enrollment penalty that continues for as long as you keep Part B coverage. This penalty amount increases the longer you go without enrolling in Medicare Part B once you’re eligible.

  • Your health care costs may rise. Without Medicare Part B, you may have to pay out of pocket for the services and supplies that would’ve otherwise been covered.

How to cancel Medicare Part B coverage

If you’re sure you don’t want Medicare Part B, there are a couple of ways to cancel it.

  • If you were automatically enrolled recently and received a welcome packet, follow the instructions in the packet for dropping Part B and return the enclosed Medicare card.

  • If you’ve been actively enrolled, contact Social Security to cancel your Part B coverage. You can call Social Security at 800-772-1213 or use the Social Security office locator to contact a local office. You’ll need to submit Form CMS-1763 and may have to schedule a personal interview with Social Security to complete the process.

How to re-enroll in Medicare Part B coverage

If you decide to re-enroll in Medicare Part B, and you’re not eligible for a special enrollment period, you can sign up again during the general enrollment period, which takes place from Jan. 1 to March 31. Be aware that because of the Medicare Part B late enrollment penalty, you may end up with a monthly premium that’s higher than it would've been if you hadn’t dropped this coverage.

If you’re currently covered under an employer-provided group health plan and want to re-enroll in Medicare Part B, you may be able to take advantage of a special enrollment period. This means you can sign up for Medicare Part B at any time of the year while your current health coverage is still active — or during the eight months after the month your employment or health coverage ends, whichever takes place first.

Those with COBRA coverage need to re-enroll when the employment ends, or during the eight months after the month the coverage ends, whichever comes first.

To sign up again for Medicare Part B, either during the general enrollment period or a special enrollment period:

  • Apply online at Social Security’s website.

  • Call Social Security at 800-772-1213 (or 800-325-0778 for TTY).

  • Reach out to your local Social Security office. You can use the Social Security office locator to find the office closest to you.

  • Contact the Railroad Retirement Board at 877-772-5772 if you or your spouse were employed by a railroad.

If you have additional questions about Medicare, visit Medicare.gov or call 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227, TTY 877-486-2048).
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