There’s so much to learn as you go about choosing a Medicare plan. We hope this roadmap and its helpful links will guide you to the plan that’s right for you. Bookmark this page for easy reference. The Medicare Advantage (MA) and prescription drug plan (PDP) Annual Election Period (AEP) runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.
Easy tip to stay organized:
Download a personal Medicare planner, PDF to help you keep track of your Medicare information and compare plans you might be considering.
Confirm your eligibility
Visit Medicare.gov and answer a few simple questions to confirm your eligibility to enroll.
Be aware of important dates
If you’re new to Medicare, you can enroll anytime during the 3 months before your 65th birthday, your birthday month and the 3 months after your 65th birthday. Some people may qualify before age 65 due to illness or disability.
If you want to change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan—or vice versa—the Medicare Advantage and Prescription drug plan Annual Election Period starts Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7.1
There is also an Open Enrollment Period just for Medicare Advantage members. It runs each year from Jan. 1 through March 31. During this time, you can switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or return to Original Medicare. Outside of the Annual Election Period and Open Enrollment Period, you would need to qualify for what’s called a Special Election Period to enroll in a new plan.
Know your Medicare Annual Election Period options
During the Annual Election Period, you can:1
- Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
- Change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another Medicare Advantage plan
- Enroll in or disenroll from a Medicare prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D)
Review your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)
If you’re already a Medicare Advantage plan member, you’ll receive an ANOC letter each September. This document explains any plan changes that will go into effect in the coming year. It gives you some time to review any changes and decide if you want to stay with your current plan or switch to another plan or coverage option.2
Do a little homework
Take some time to learn the A’s, B’s, C’s and D’s of Medicare:
- Original Medicare Part A: coverage for hospital visits
- Original Medicare Part B: coverage for medical/doctor visits
- Part C: Medicare Advantage—includes Part A and Part B; most plans include coverage for prescription drugs, and many include coverage for routine dental, vision and hearing all in 1 plan
- Part D: Coverage for prescription drugs, as part of a Medicare Advantage plan, or as a stand-alone prescription drug plan—can be paired with Original Medicare, a Medicare Supplement plan or some Medicare Advantage private-fee-for-service (PFFS) plans
- Medicare Supplement Insurance plans: can only be added to an Original Medicare plan
Still on an employer’s group plan?
If you’re still working and covered by an employer’s group plan, learn more about how working past the age of 65 affects your Medicare options.
Think about which plan features are most important to you
When comparing plans, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Does my preferred doctor accept Medicare?
- What benefits do I need based on my current health status?
- Do I want or need any additional benefits like vision, dental or hearing care?
- Do I need coverage for prescription drugs?
Think about which type of plan fits your needs
There are 2 main ways to get your Medicare coverage:
- Original Medicare provides Part A (hospital) and Part B (medical/doctor visits) coverage.
- It does not provide coverage for prescription drug or dental, vision and hearing care.
- Generally, most people don’t have to pay a premium for Part A; the 2024 monthly Part B premium is $174.70 (or higher depending on your income).
- Medicare Advantage plans offer all the benefits of Original Medicare, with the exception of hospice care.
- Most also include coverage for prescription drugs.
- Many include coverage for routine dental, vision and hearing care.
- Benefits are all wrapped up in 1 plan.
Want a clear comparison of your options? Review this complete side-by-side comparison of Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, PDF.
Know how to enroll in Original Medicare
Do you want to enroll in Original Medicare? You have 3 options:
- Apply online through the Social Security Administration.
- Apply by phone by calling the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213, Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., in the caller’s time zone (TTY: 800-325-0778).
- Apply in person at your local Social Security office.