When Can I Enroll in
a Medicare Advantage Plan?

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Medicare Advantage (Part C) enrollment isn’t open year-round, but you do have a number of opportunities throughout the year to enroll in the plan of your choice or change plans.

To enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you must already be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. The following enrollment opportunities apply only if you’ve completed your Original Medicare enrollment. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Plan, you will not be able to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan without leaving your Medicare Supplement Plan first.

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Around Your 65th Birthday: Initial Enrollment Period

You have a seven-month Initial Enrollment Period when you turn 65. It includes the three months before your birthday, your birthday month, and the three months after your birthday. You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan at any time during your seven-month Initial Enrollment Period once you’ve completed your Parts A and B enrollment.

You may be subject to fees if you don’t have prescription drug coverage when your Initial Enrollment Period ends and you decide to sign up later, so this is a good time to consider Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plans (MAPD).

From October 15 to December 7: Annual Enrollment Period

The Medicare Advantage Annual Enrollment Period occurs from October 15 to December 7 each year and offers the opportunity to enroll in or change Medicare Advantage Plans. This is your chance to review how plans have changed for the following year and compare your options to find what’s best for you. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan during this period, your coverage will begin on January 1.

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From January 1 to March 31: Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period occurs during the first three months of the year and allows those with a Medicare Advantage plan to change plans once.. This enrollment period is only open to you if you’re already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan and want to enroll in a different plan. If you change plans during this period, your coverage should begin on the first of the following month.

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During Special Enrollment Periods

There are a number of special circumstances that trigger Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs) during which you could enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan. Special circumstances include:

  • You move to a new location: Medicare Advantage Plans are offered based on your zip code, so even if you just move across the city, you may need to change plans.
  • You lose your current coverage: For example, retiring from a job where you received employer-paid group coverage.
  • There are changes in your current provider’s Medicare contract: You would be notified about these by your insurance carrier.
  • You qualify for Extra Help: Extra Help, also known as a Low-Income Subsidy (LIS), allows you to change your coverage once every quarter.
  • New Five-Star plan(s) becomes available in your area: Every year, Medicare evaluates plans based on a 5-star rating system of customer satisfaction and plan quality. 5 stars is the highest possible rating. A 5-star Special Enrollment Period may be used one time between December 8 and November 30, provided you meet the plan’s enrollment requirement.
  • You qualify for dual-eligibility by having both Medicare and Medicaid
  • You’re eligible for a Medicare Special Needs Plan (SNP): Special Needs Plans are designated for chronic illness, individuals in an institution (such as an assisted living facility), and dual eligibility.

Special Enrollment Periods are not all the same length. Depending on your special circumstance, they can vary from one to three months long. Your new plan’s coverage will usually begin on the first of the month after you enroll.

While health insurance may not be the first thing on your mind during a life change, it’s important to begin notifying your insurance carrier and looking for a new plan as soon as you know that your coverage is changing. You don’t want to miss your enrollment window and lose benefits that are important to you.

After Enrolling in Medicare Part B

If you don’t enroll in Medicare Parts A and B at the same time, and enroll in Part B during Medicare General Enrollment from January through March, you may have an opportunity to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan after you‘ve enrolled in Part B.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan anytime?

No, you cannot enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan at anytime. Medicare Advantage enrollment is typically open during your Initial Enrollment Period when you’re first eligible for Medicare, during the Annual Enrollment period from October 15 through December 7, or during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period from January 1 through March 31. You may be able to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan at different times during the year if you’re eligible through a Special Enrollment Period.

Enrollment Eligibility

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period runs each year from October 15 to December 7. What is the Annual Enrollment Period vs. Open Enrollment Period?

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