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Medicare Advantage Enrollment Periods

Summary: There are various Medicare Advantage enrollment periods throughout the year. These enrollment periods include timeframes when you can enroll in a new Medicare Advantage plan, change your current plan, or drop your current coverage without penalty. Here, we will go over each Medicare Advantage enrollment period so you can be informed about your healthcare coverage. Estimated Read Time: 7 mins

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Table of Contents:

    1. Can I Enroll in Medicare Advantage Anytime?
    2. Initial Coverage Election Period
    3. Medicare Advantage Enrollment After Delaying Part B
    4. Medicare Advantage Annual Enrollment Period
    5. Open Enrollment for Medicare Advantage Plans
    6. Medicare Advantage Special Enrollment Periods
    7. Special Enrollment Periods for Limited Income and Life-Changing Events
    8. Is It Too Late to Sign Up for Medicare Advantage?
    9. How to Enroll in Medicare Advantage

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan or are thinking of enrolling in one, it is essential to understand the Medicare Advantage enrollment periods. There are various Medicare Advantage enrollment periods, including timeframes when you can enroll in a new plan, drop your current coverage, or change plans throughout the year. Medicare Advantage enrollment can be confusing, so it is important to be informed.

Some enrollment periods are the same for every Medicare enrollee, and others depend on your circumstances. Let’s go over Medicare Advantage enrollment, when you can change your plan, and how to make a change.

Can I Enroll in Medicare Advantage Anytime?

Unfortunately, you would not be able to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan at any time. Medicare Advantage enrollment can only be done during certain times throughout the year. There are certain Medicare Advantage enrollment periods by which enrollees must abide to sign up for a plan.

There are four Medicare Advantage enrollment periods. Each of these enrollment periods works differently, but they all allow you access to Medicare Advantage enrollment. The occurrence of these Medicare Advantage enrollment periods ranges from annual, to once-in-a-lifetime, to circumstantial.

The four enrollment periods are:

  • Initial Coverage Election Period
  • Annual Enrollment Period
  • Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
  • Special Enrollment Period

Initial Coverage Election Period

Your Initial Coverage Election Period begins three months before your Part B coverage goes into effect and ends the last day of the month before Part B begins.

This is a common enrollment period for people who enroll in Medicare Part A coverage but delay Medicare Part B.

For example, if you enroll in Part A on January 1, 2012, but delay Part B until January 1, 2020, your ICEP will be from October 1, 2019 – December 31, 2019. You will be able to enroll in any Medicare Advantage plan that’s available to you during this three-month period.

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Your ICEP is different from your Initial Enrollment Period, which is three months before, the month of, and three months after your Medicare Part B begins. You can only enroll in Medicare Advantage during this time if you enrolled in Original Medicare Part A and Part B at the same time.

Initial Enrollment Period

Medicare Advantage Enrollment After Delaying Part B

If you are working past age 65, you may be eligible to delay Medicare Part B enrollment. However, before you put off Medicare benefits, you must be sure you have creditable coverage. Otherwise, you may need to pay the Medicare Part B late enrollment penalty.

After delaying Medicare Part B coverage, you receive an eight-month Special Enrollment Period when you retire or lose your creditable health coverage. Before retiring, you should sign up for Medicare Part B to avoid a coverage gap.

If it makes sense, you can sign up for Medicare Part B anytime while working. Along with your eight-month Special Enrollment Period, you will receive your Initial Coverage Election Period to obtain a Medicare Advantage plan.

Medicare Advantage Annual Enrollment Period

If you miss your Initial Coverage Election Period, the Annual Enrollment Period is typically your next chance for Medicare Advantage enrollment. Each year, the Annual Enrollment Period happens from October 15 through December 7. During this time, you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that will be effective on January 1.

You can also use this enrollment window to disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan and switch to Original Medicare or another Medicare Advantage plan. After you disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan, you can pick up a Medigap plan and a stand-alone Part D drug plan to pair with Original Medicare.

Annual Enrollment Period

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Open Enrollment for Medicare Advantage Plans

Each year, the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period runs between January 1 and March 31. This enrollment period allows you to make a one-time change to your current Medicare Advantage plan.

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period is only for those who already have Medicare Advantage. The Open Enrollment Period is not for you to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan for the first time. However, you can use it to change your Medicare Advantage policy to another or switch back to Original Medicare.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

Medicare Advantage Special Enrollment Periods

A few events allow beneficiaries to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or change their plan outside of a typical enrollment period. These particular circumstances give you a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

Types of SEPs include:

Special Enrollment Period

Special Enrollment Periods for Limited Income and Life-Changing Events

Those with a limited income or who go through life-changing events are eligible for a few Special Enrollment Periods. These SEPs are specific to situations and require proof of circumstances for a beneficiary to be admitted to the plan.

Special Enrollment Periods for low-income and life-changing events include:

  • Medicare Advantage Dual Special Enrollment Period
  • Losing employer or group coverage
  • Medicare Advantage Low-Income Subsidy and Extra Help Special Enrollment Period
  • Medicare Advantage State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program Special Enrollment Period
  • Special Enrollment Periods When Moving, Institutionalized, or on a Special Needs Plan
  • FEMA-Declared Weather-Related Emergency or Major Disaster
  • This is not a complete list of Special Enrollment Periods you could be eligible for. If you believe you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, contact your local Social Security Administration office to confirm eligibility.

Is It Too Late to Sign Up for Medicare Advantage?

If you didn’t sign up for Medicare Advantage during your Initial Coverage Election Period, it’s not too late. As long as you meet the Medicare Advantage eligibility requirements you can still enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during the Annual Enrollment Period or if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

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How to Enroll in Medicare Advantage

There are a few steps you should take to enroll in Medicare Advantage.

Step 1: Qualify for a Medicare Advantage Enrollment Period

As long as you’re eligible for Original Medicare, you automatically qualify to enroll in Medicare Advantage during your Initial Enrollment Period or the Annual Enrollment Period. Or you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period for any of the circumstances mentioned above.

Step 2: Work With a Licensed Insurance Agent During the Enrollment Period

When deciding which coverage option works best for you, using the free help of a licensed insurance agent is invaluable. Because some of the above enrollment periods only allow you to make a change one time, it is crucial to get it right the first time. If not, you could be stuck with a plan you do not want for an entire year.

Our agents can answer all of your questions and walk you through the Medicare Advantage enrollment process step-by-step so you can get the coverage you need.

Step 3: Enroll Before the Enrollment Period Ends

If you’re sure a Medicare Advantage plan is right for you, be sure to enroll before the enrollment period ends. If you don’t, you’ll be subject to medical underwriting, and you could be denied coverage due to a preexisting condition or charged higher premiums.

Medicare Advantage enrollment periods

Get Help with Medicare Advantage Enrollment Periods

At MedicareFAQ, we are here to help our clients however possible. Plus, once you enroll through our free services, our Client Care Team is always here to help. Give us a call, or use our rates form to compare all Medicare plans available in your area today!

Sources

MedicareFAQ is dedicated to providing you with authentic and trustworthy Medicare information. We have strict sourcing guidelines and work diligently to serve our readers with accurate and up-to-date content.

  1. Medicare Managed Care Eligibility and Enrollment, Medicare. Accessed August 2023.
    https://www.cms.gov/medicare/enrollment-renewal/managed-care-eligibility-enrollment
  2. Understanding Medicare Part C, CMS. Accessed August 2023.
    https://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/12026-Understanding-Medicare-Advantage-Plans.pdf
Kayla Hopkins

Kayla Hopkins

Content Editor
Kayla Hopkins is an accomplished writer and Medicare guru serving as the Editor of MedicareFAQ.com. Upon completing her Communications degree from Ohio University, Kayla dedicated her time to understanding the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare. With her extensive background as a Licensed Insurance Agent, she brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her writing.
Ashlee Zareczny

Ashlee Zareczny

Compliance Manager
Ashlee Zareczny is the Compliance Manager for MedicareFAQ. As a licensed Medicare agent in all 50 states, she is dedicated to educating those eligible for Medicare by providing the necessary resources and tools. Additionally, Ashlee trains new and tenured Medicare agents on CMS compliance guidelines. Ashlee is a Medicare expert who specializes in Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D education.

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