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- Joe Theismann

Joe Theismann - NFL MVP and Super Bowl Champion

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6 Ways You Can Enroll in or Change Your Medicare Coverage Outside of the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period


The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period occurs October 15 through December 7 every year. This gives all Medicare beneficiaries the opportunity to change their Medicare plan if they choose to—whether that’s changing from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan, adding a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan or other modifications. But certain circumstances allow some Medicare beneficiaries to enroll or make changes at other times during the year.

Here are five exceptions that may qualify you to enroll in or change your Medicare coverage outside of the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period.

  1. You’re new to Medicare and turning 65.
  2. If you’re new to Medicare, around your 65th birthday you have a unique window during which you can sign up for Medicare Parts A and B (also known as Original Medicare), a Medicare Advantage Plan, a Prescription Drug Plan and more. This period begins three months before you turn 65 and continues through the three months after your 65th birthday month for a total of seven months.

    Learn more about your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period

  3. You’re eligible for a Special Enrollment Period.
  4. You may be able to enroll in Medicare or change your Medicare plan outside of the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Depending on the circumstances, some Medicare beneficiaries can change coverage as often as month to month or every quarter. Some of the special circumstances include moving outside your plan’s area, leaving your employer’s coverage, availability of a new Five-Star Plan in your area, and more.

    Learn more about Medicare Special Enrollment Period eligibility.

  5. You take advantage of the Open Enrollment Period.
  6. The Open Enrollment Period, which runs from January 1 through March 31, is new for 2019. You have to currently have a Medicare Advantage Plan to make a change during this period. You can change Medicare Advantage Plans, change from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare only, or vice versa. This is your opportunity to make a change if you’re not happy with the plan you enrolled in during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period.

    Learn more about the Medicare Open Enrollment Period

  7. You qualify for Medicare Extra Help.
  8. Depending on your income and other circumstances, you may be eligible for Extra Help with your prescription drug coverage through either a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Prescription Drug Plan (Part D). Be aware that enrolling in a plan is separate from applying for Extra Help. If you’re eligible for Extra Help, you can change prescription drug coverage once per quarter for the first three quarters of the year, as well as during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period.

    Learn more about Medicare Extra Help eligibility.

  9. You’re dual eligible.
  10. If you qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare, you may be dual eligible, which means you may be able to take advantage of state-run Medicare Savings Programs that help with the cost of premiums, copays, and deductibles. If you’re dual eligible, you may enroll in, change or drop Medicare Advantage Plans or Prescription Drug Plans at any time.

    Learn more about dual eligibility

  11. You’re disabled or have qualifying conditions.
  12. If you’re under 65 and receiving Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), there are several different scenarios that may allow you to enroll in Medicare outside of the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period:

    • If you’re disabled, once you’ve been receiving Social Security Disability Income for 24 months, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. Your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period, when you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage and/or Prescription Drug Plans, spans three months before the 25th month of you receiving disability benefits through the three months after that 25th month.
    • If you have ALS, or Lou-Gehrig’s Disease, you’re automatically enrolled in Medicare the month your disability benefits begin. You may also enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan at this time.
    • If you have end-stage renal disease, contact the Social Security Administration to enroll in Medicare. You won’t be able to enroll in most Medicare Advantage Plans but may qualify for a Special Needs Plan that’s designed specifically for individuals with specific medical conditions or characteristics. If you’re eligible for a Special Needs Plan, you may enroll at any time.
Get the help you need, when you need it

Our Medicare Advocates are available to help you confirm when you can enroll in or change your Medicare coverage. They’re also happy to help you find, compare, and enroll in Medicare plans. For assistance, call 1-800-991-4407 / TTY 711 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

You can also find and compare Medicare plans through our convenient Medicare Online Enrollment Portal.