If you’re becoming eligible for Medicare, or you’re looking to change Medicare plans and coverage, knowing the dates and details of your enrollment period is important.
Here’s some information to help you get the Medicare coverage you need and to avoid penalties or gaps in coverage.
- Enrollment periods when you’re first eligible
- Initial Enrollment Period
- Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period
- Enrollment periods throughout the year
- Open Enrollment Period
- Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
- General Enrollment Period
- Special Enrollment Period
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
For many people, Medicare’s Initial Enrollment Period is your first chance to enroll in Original Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). If you’re under 65 and receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, you may be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare. However, you’ll still have an IEP and will be able to make Medicare coverage decisions during that time.
Dates: IEP begins 3 months before you turn 65, through your birthday month, and ends 3 months after.
During your Initial Enrollment Period, you can:
Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period
The Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period is your best time to buy a Medicare Supplement insurance plan without answering health questions. Even if you have health problems, you can buy any policy a company sells for the same price as people with good health.
Dates: Your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period begins the first day of the month you have Medicare Part B and you’re age 65 or older. For many people, this is the first day of the month they turn 65.
During Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment, you can:
- Buy any Medicare Supplement policy sold in your state, even if you have health problems
- Potentially get better prices and more choices among policies
- After this 6-month enrollment period ends, you may not be able to buy a Medicare Supplement policy. If you’re able to buy one, it may cost more due to past or present health problems.
- If you apply after your open enrollment period, there is no guarantee that an insurance company will sell you a policy, unless you are eligible for a guaranteed issue right.
- If you’re under age 65 and have Medicare, you may not be able to buy a Medicare Supplement policy or the one you want until you turn 65.
- Some states do require companies to sell you a policy, even if you’re under age 65.
Medicare Open Enrollment Period
Medicare plans can change each year—including cost, coverage and networks. Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, known as the Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan “annual election period” or “annual enrollment period” takes place each year from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. Coverage changes start on Jan. 1 if the plans gets your request by Dec. 7. This is the primary time when people with Medicare can choose a plan, but there are other times during the year that may be called “open enrollment” or “special enrollment” periods when a person can enroll in a plan, which are explained in more detail below.”
Dates: Oct. 15–Dec. 7
During Medicare Open Enrollment, you can:
- Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or vice versa
- Join a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan
- Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage plan without drug coverage, or vice versa
- Change Medicare Part D prescription drug plans
- Disenroll from a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan
- Your coverage will begin on Jan. 1 (if the plan gets your request by Dec. 7)
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP)
If you already have a Medicare Advantage plan, the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period is when you can enroll in another Medicare Advantage plan or go back to Original Medicare. However, you can only make 1 change within the period, and other rules apply as well.
Dates: Jan. 1–March 31
During the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, you can:
- Switch to another Medicare Advantage plan, with or without drug coverage
- Switch back to Original Medicare, and if needed, add a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan
- Changes take place the first day of the following month after the enrollment request is received
General Enrollment Period (GEP)
If you miss your chance to apply for Original Medicare during your IEP, or you weren’t automatically enrolled, the Medicare General Enrollment Period is your chance to sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B.
Dates: Jan. 1–March 31
During the General Enrollment Period, you can:
- Sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B
- Coverage will start on July 1
- You may have to pay a late enrollment penalty
Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
A Special Enrollment Period is your chance to make changes to your Medicare coverage outside of the Open Enrollment Period when certain events happen in your life.
When do you qualify for a special enrollment period?
Certain life events may qualify you for a SEP. These can include:
- Losing your existing coverage
- Your Medicare plan changed
- Ability to get other healthcare coverage
- Your eligibility changed
Dates: The length of your SEP can vary depending on the type of qualifying event.
- Generally, your SEP will last 2–3 months, depending on the time of the qualifying event
- Your SEP to sign up for Medicare Part B lasts 8 months after your employer health coverage ends
During a Special Enrollment Period, you can:
- Sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B if you delayed coverage due to employment
- Make changes to your Medicare coverage, including Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage
If you’re already enrolled in Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, your plan will renew automatically. Check out these renewal and enrollment details of common Medicare plans for more information.
Your health and prescription drug needs can change from year to year. Now that you understand the details about Medicare enrollment periods, it may be a good time to learn more about your Medicare coverage options. Here’s some helpful information to compare Medicare Advantage plans and change your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.