Medicare Enrollment Periods Overview
There are specified times to enroll in Medicare throughout the year. You are not necessarily able to enroll in a plan, or change your current plan, at any time. Because of this, it’s beneficial to understand the enrollment period basics. With an overview of the most common Medicare enrollment periods, you’ll know what you can expect from each window.
Initial Enrollment Period
This is your first opportunity for Medicare enrollment. Your Initial Enrollment Period runs for seven months, beginning three months before the month of your 65th birthday and ending three months after the month of your birthday. For example, if your birthday is in June, your Initial Enrollment Period would begin in March and end in September.
Unless you are on disability, you are not automatically enrolled in Original Medicare (Parts A and B). Your Initial Enrollment Period is when to apply for Medicare Parts A and B. You will also have the opportunity to enroll in another Medicare coverage plan, such as a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug plan.
If you do not complete your Medicare enrollment during your Initial Enrollment Period, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty, which will be added onto your premiums each month.
Annual Enrollment Period (October 15-December 7)
This is an enrollment period dedicated to changing your Medicare coverage. During this time, you have the opportunity to:
- Enroll in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) or Prescription Drug (Part D) plan from Original Medicare
- Switch between Medicare Advantage or Part D plans
- Drop your current plan and go back to Original Medicare (Parts A and B).
If you are currently enrolled in a Medicare plan, you will receive your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) in September. This document will tell you about your current plan and what changes, if any, will be made to your coverage for the following calendar year. It’s important to review your coverage and any lifestyle or health changes in your life to determine whether you should be looking into another Medicare plan.
It’s not required that you make changes to your Medicare plan each year, but it’s a good idea to review your coverage and available Medicare plans in your area.
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (Jan 1 – Mar 31)
This Medicare enrollment period is for those who enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan during their Annual Enrollment Period and wish to either switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan or drop their coverage and go back to Original Medicare (Parts A and B). During this time, you can make a single change to your Medicare Advantage coverage. You cannot make changes to Part D or Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) coverage during this period.
Special Enrollment Periods
Certain circumstances make you eligible for Special Enrollment Periods throughout the year. During this window, you may have another opportunity to enroll, switch, or drop Medicare plans outside of the traditional enrollment periods. There are many special enrollment periods, but the most common include:
Special Enrollment Periods typically run for 2-3 months depending on the special circumstance.
Frequently Asked Questions
The deadline for Medicare enrollment in 2024 will depend on which enrollment periods apply to you. December 7 is the end of the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, which is the deadline for many Medicare beneficiaries. However, some people are able to enroll in Original Medicare and private Medicare plans all the way through December 31, 2024 because of Initial Enrollment Periods or Special Enrollment Periods.
Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)
Medicare Annual Enrollment Period runs each year from October 15 to December 7. What is the Annual Enrollment Period vs. Open Enrollment Period?
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
Your Initial Enrollment Period generally surrounds your 65th birthday but may occur if you otherwise become eligible for Medicare for the first time.
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Last Updated: October 13, 2023