When to Enroll
When you’re 65 and new to Medicare, there can be a lot of dates to remember. But signing up for Medicare is simple. If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A when you turn 65. If you’re delaying Social Security benefits past your 65th birthday, you’ll have to contact the Social Security Administration to enroll in Medicare Part A.
You have several options for when you can enroll in Medicare Part B. You're first eligible to sign up during the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). It lasts for seven months – the three months before your 65th birthday, the month of your birthday, and the three months after your birthday. If you don’t sign up then, you can sign up during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) from October 15 through December 7.
There are four enrollment periods for Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare prescription drug plans. Review them below to determine which one is right for you.
Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)
Anyone can join, switch or drop a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare prescription drug plan between October 15 and December 7. If you apply for a plan during this time, coverage begins on January 1.
Open Enrollment Period (OEP)
The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP) is January 1 through March 31 each year. During this time, Medicare Advantage enrollees can pick a different Medicare Advantage plan or switch to Original Medicare and enroll in a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MAPD) plan. The effective date for an MA OEP election, or plan change, is the first of the month following receipt of the enrollment request. You may make only one plan change during the MA OEP.
The MA OEP is also available for the first three months an individual has Medicare eligibility. You are eligible to use the MA OEP to make a plan change if you are a new Medicare beneficiary who enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan during your Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP), which is the first three months you were eligible to enroll. In this situation, the OEP occurs the month of entitlement to Part A and Part B through the last day of the third month of entitlement.
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
When you first become eligible for Medicare, you can join during this seven-month period that starts three months before you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends three months after the month you turn 65.
Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
In most cases, you must stay enrolled in the plan for the calendar year when your coverage began. But when certain events happen in your life, you may be able to join, switch or drop a Medicare Advantage plan and a Medicare prescription drug plan and return to Original Medicare during a Special Enrollment Period. Below is a list of some, but not all, of the events that may qualify you for an SEP:
- You move outside of the plan’s approved service area
- You enter or leave a qualified institution, such as a nursing home
- You qualify for low-income subsidy assistance (Extra Help)
- You enroll in Medicaid
- You Involuntarily lose creditable prescription drug coverage
- You leave or lose your employer's health plan
Contact us if any of these situations apply to you.
For more information, refer to the Medicare & You handbook.