What is a Medicare enrollment period?

If you’re signing up for Medicare benefits for the first time, you may be confused by the multiple enrollment periods Medicare offers. Each enrollment period has different dates for many reasons. The Medicare enrollment periods include:1

  • Initial Election Period (IEP): For many people, this begins 3 months before you turn 65 and ends 3 months after.
  • Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP): Begins 3 months before you become eligible for both Part A and Part B.
  • Annual Election Period (AEP): Available each year from Oct. 15 – Dec. 7 to any Medicare eligible recipient who wishes to make a change to their coverage.
  • Special Election Period (SEP): SEPs enable a beneficiary to make changes to their Medicare Advantage or Medicare prescription drug coverage when certain situations or events occur.

If you plan to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C), your first opportunity is during your Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP).

ICEP eligibility

When you become eligible for Original Medicare (Parts A and B), you also become eligible for the ICEP for a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C). You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan with or without prescription drug coverage.

When your ICEP occurs

Your ICEP begins:

  • 3 months before you become eligible for Part A and Part B

Your ICEP can end in 2 ways (whichever is later):

  • The last day of the month before entitlement to both Part A and B (you can choose to delay Part B enrollment under certain circumstances)
  • The last day of your Part B initial enrollment period

Once you’ve enrolled during your ICEP and enrollment takes effect, the ICEP has been used.


If you’re new to Medicare Advantage (MA), there are similarities and differences between IEP and ICEP. Both are 1-time enrollment periods and may occur at the same time. Here are the key differences between the IEP and ICEP:2

  • IEP—This is your first chance to enroll in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B)
  • ICEP—If you’re newly eligible for Medicare and wish to enroll in an MA (Part C) plan, this is your chance.

Other enrollment periods for Medicare Advantage plans

If you missed your ICEP, you have 2 other opportunities to join or make changes to a Medicare Advantage plan:

*Eligibility for Special Election Periods are limited to certain qualifying events.

Get the coverage you need

An ICEP is your first chance to enroll in the Medicare Advantage plan of your choice. For more information on MA plans, check out these 4 surprising benefits to Medicare Advantage plans.

Humana answers your Medicare questions


  1. “Joining a plan,” Medicare.gov, last accessed May 1, 2023, https://www.medicare.gov/basics/get-started-with-medicare/get-more-coverage/joining-a-plan.
  2. Zia Sherrell, “Understand the Medicare Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP),” MedicareAdvantage.com, last accessed July 18, 2022, https://www.medicareadvantage.com/enrollment/icep.

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