Medicare Enrollment Periods

There are several different enrollment periods to sign up for Medicare. Your enrollment period may be different from someone else’s, so you’ll want to review all options to see which applies to your situation.

The enrollment periods listed below apply to Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans and Part D prescription drug plans. 

Enrolling for the first time

Initial Enrollment Period
Enrolling at age 65

Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), or when you first become eligible to enroll in Medicare, begins as you get close to your 65th birthday. Your IEP begins three months before your 65th birthday, the month you turn 65 and three months after your 65th birthday. If you’re enrolled through a group health insurance plan, talk to your employer. Enroll in Medicare today. 

SrWoman with ID card

What to do if you missed your Initial Enrollment Period

General Enrollment Period
Jan. 1 - March 31

If you miss your IEP, you can still enroll in Original Medicare between Jan. 1 and March 31 each year. If you enroll in Original Medicare during the General Enrollment Period, you will then be eligible to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D prescription drug plan from April 1 through June 30. Your coverage in a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan would begin July 1 of that year. It’s important to know that you may have a higher premium for late enrollment in Medicare Part A and/or Part B if you wait to enroll during the General Enrollment Period.

Other important enrollment periods

Annual Enrollment Period
Oct. 15 - Dec. 7

During the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), Medicare-eligible individuals can enroll in and change Medicare Advantage plans. With some exceptions, this is the only time you may add or switch Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription drug plans for coverage beginning Jan. 1 of the following year. Until then you will continue to rely on your current plan or Original Medicare.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
Jan. 1 - March 31

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and would like to make a one-time plan change, you can do so during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. Between Jan. 1 and March 31, Medicare Advantage members can more a one-time change to another Medicare Advantage plan or return to Original Medicare. Coverage begins the first of the month following the month you make the change (i.e. plan change made Jan. 1, so new coverage would begin Feb. 1).

Special Enrollment Period
Qualifying life events

Sometimes you can make changes to your Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug coverage when certain events happen in your life, which is called a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). There are different rules around when you can make changes for each SEP, but common examples include: 

  • You move outside or into the plan’s service area

  • You lose your current health coverage

  • You become eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid 

  • You qualify for Extra Help paying for Medicare prescription drug coverage 

  • And many more

Call us and we can help you determine if you qualify for an SEP: 800-967-4497

Retiring late
Working past age 65

If you’re still working and get your health coverage from your employer when you turn 65, you may choose to not enroll in Medicare during your IEP. If you choose to retire past age 65 you will be eligible to enroll at a later age when you stop working. Once you retire, you’ll have eight months to enroll in Medicare after your employment ends or your group health coverage ends, whichever comes first. There is no penalty if you wait until this time to enroll in Medicare.

Request our free, no-obligation guide to Medicare today