Medicare Enrollment Periods

There are many different types of Medicare Enrollment Periods. These enrollment periods fall into two categories. First, open enrollment is available to anyone eligible for Medicare. Then, Special Enrollment Periods.

If you want to change the coverage you currently have, you can do so during one of the above enrollment windows.

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Medicare Enrollment Periods for Everyone

Medicare Enrollment Periods can be confusing because different enrollment periods have different dates for various purposes. There are many enrollment periods for people signing up for benefits for the first time.

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If you’re receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits when you turn 65, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare.

Enrollment periods are an opportunity to enroll in these plans as well as Medicare Part D, or to replace Original Medicare coverage with a Medicare Advantage plan.

Some enrollment periods are specifically for Medicare Supplement. And, others are specific for Medicare Advantage enrollment periods.

It’s highly recommended that you take advantage of the Medicare sign up period.

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

One Medicare enrollment period is the Initial Enrollment Period. The IEP allows you to sign up for Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D when you turn 65.

Your Initial Enrollment Period begins three months before the month you turn 65, includes your birthday month and ends three months after you turn 65.

For example, if your birthday is June 15th, you can apply for Medicare between March 1st and September 30th.

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Initial Enrollment Period 2 (IEP2)

Another enrollment period that is also 7-months is the Initial Enrollment Period 2. The IEP2 is for people who were already eligible for Medicare Part A and B before they turned 65.

During the IEP2, you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plan. The IEP2 runs for the same seven-month period as the IEP.

Special Enrollment Period (SEP)

One of the most complicated Medicare enrollment periods is the Special Enrollment Period. A Special Enrollment Period is when you can make changes to your Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug coverage when certain events happen in your life.

Events include situations such as if you move or lose other insurance coverage.

An example is losing health insurance through you or your spouse’s employer.

When you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, you’ll have up to 60 days following the event to enroll in Medicare coverage. Rules about when you can make changes and the type of changes you can make are different for each Special Enrollment Period.

Another example of a Special Enrollment Period will be if you’re switching from employer coverage to enrollment for Medicare.

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Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP)

Another Medicare enrollment period is the Initial Coverage Election Period. The Initial Coverage Election Period is your first opportunity to choose a Medicare Advantage plan instead of Original Medicare.

During the Initial Coverage Election Period, you can also sign up for prescription drug coverage.

If you enroll in Medicare Part B when you turn 65, your Initial Coverage Election Period is the same as your Initial Enrollment Period. When you join later, your Initial Coverage Election Period is the three months before your Medicare Part B coverage takes effect.

  • If you’re newly eligible for Medicare because you turned 65, you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan or Prescription Plan.
  • When on Medicare because of a disability, you can select a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Drug Plan. Medicare coverage begins 24 months after SS or RRB disability benefits.
  • If you’re already eligible for Medicare because of a disability and you turned 65, you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Prescription Drug Plan.
  • You can also switch from your current Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan to another plan.
  • Additionally, you can drop a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan altogether. If you sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan during this time, you can drop that plan during the next 12 months and return to Original Medicare.

General Enrollment Period

During the General Enrollment Period from January 1st to March 31st, you can enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B. You may pay the penalty if you didn’t join in Part B during an Initial Enrollment Period or Special Enrollment Period.

If you don’t have Medicare Part A coverage and you enroll in Medicare Part B during the General Enrollment Period, you can sign up for a drug plan between April 1st – June 30th.

Understanding the Different Medicare Enrollment Periods

There are three enrollment periods for people signing up for benefits who are already enrolled in Original Medicare. During open enrollment, you can make changes to your Medicare plans and add additional coverage.

Annual Enrollment Period vs Open Enrollment Period

Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period

Your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period begins the 1st day of the month you turn 65 years old, and your Medicare Part B has become effective. Many beneficiaries take advantage of this Medicare sign up period.

For example, if your birthday was August 31st and your Medicare Part B effective date was October 1st, then your Open Enrollment Period begins October 1st.

Your Open Enrollment Period lasts for six months; you’ll be granted Medicare Supplement Guaranteed Issue Rights.

During this time, you can sign up for a Medicare Supplement Plan, also known as Medigap.

If you didn’t sign up for a Medicare Advantage or a drug plan during your Initial Enrollment Period, the Annual Enrollment Period is your next chance to make changes. There are exceptions for those who qualify for a Medicare Special Enrollment Period.

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Medicare Annual Election Period

During the Annual Election Period from October 15th to December 7th, you can:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage.
  • Go from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
  • Enroll in Part D, or change or drop your prescription plan.

The Annual Election period takes place at the same time each year.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

Starting in 2019, the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period will be replaced with the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. This enrollment period is only for those who are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and are looking to switch to another or go back to Original Medicare.

Medicare Enrollment Period FAQs

What does ICEP stand for?
ICEP stands for Initial Coverage Election Period.
What does IEP stand for?
IEP stands for the Initial Enrollment Period.
What is the difference between Medicare IEP and ICEP?
The difference between IEP and ICEP is the IEP is for enrolling in Part A, Part B, and Part D. The ICEP is for joining in Part C.
Can you enroll in Medicare Early?
You sign up for Medicare 3-months before you turn 65.

How to Get Help Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods

Many people who choose Original Medicare also sign up for a Medicare Supplement plan that pays for the things Medicare doesn't cover. At MedicareFAQ, we are committed to finding you the best rates on the top Medigap plans in your area.

When you sign up for a Medigap plan through us, you get unlimited support from our Client Care Team. If you ever have an issue with a claim or appeal, we can help. Call or click for a free quote.

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Jagger Esch

Jagger Esch is the Medicare expert for MedicareFAQ and the founder, president, and CEO of Elite Insurance Partners and Since the inception of his first company in 2012, he has been dedicated to helping those eligible for Medicare by providing them with resources to educate themselves on all their Medicare options. He is featured in many publications as well as writes regularly for other expert columns regarding Medicare.

29 thoughts on “Medicare Enrollment Periods

  1. I have Power of Attorney for my elderly mother who has Parkinson’s. Her original Medicare Plan was switched to the United HealthCare advantage plan; However I never received any open enrollment, etc information. Is there any way to get her switched back to the original Medicare Plan or get that coverage back somehow? She needs the Home Health Services and her provided does not accept the United Healthcare Advantage she was switched to. This is a real problem.

    1. Pamela, we are currently in the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. This means your mother can disenroll from your current Medicare Advantage plan and either change Medicare Advantage plans or return to Original Medicare. However, if you are looking to switch back to original Medicare with a Medigap policy, keep in mind she will need to be able to pass medical underwriting.

  2. I did too much research online and now I’m so confused! I heard that if your Medicare starts before age 65, you get a second IEP later when you turn 65. But what can you enroll into? Some sites said you can sign up for any Part C or D plan, others said only C, others said only plans with drugs – Part D or an advantage plan with drug coverage. What options do I get?

    1. Caren, Medicare can be confusing! That is why we are here to help! If you receive Medicare before age 65, you will be entitled to a second IEP when you turn 65. During this time, you can enroll in Part C coverage, Part D coverage or a Medigap plan without underwriting health questions.

  3. My wife is under age 65 and approved for ss disability and how has Medicare A & B effective 11-1-2021. Can she enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan under ICEP effective 1-1-2021 ?

  4. If my part b isn’t effective until 1/1/22 can I still sign up for a Medicare advantage plan during the AEP that runs from 10/15 through 12/7

    1. Hi Lisa – you will be able to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan during your Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP), which begins three months before you become eligible for Original Medicare and ends on the last day of your initial enrollment period (the last day of the month, three months after your 65th birthday) or the last day of the month before you are entitled to Original Medicare – whichever occurs later.

  5. I became eligible for Medicare on June 1 due to disability. I enrolled in an advantage plan that I don’t care for. Someone said I might be able to use an SEP called OEP NEW to change advantage plans, is this true?

    1. Hi Wanda. I believe the OEP you are referring to is the one outside of the OEP at the beginning of the year. It is a lesser known “SEP” for those new to Medicare and agents are not supposed to actively market it. It is an option for an MA/MAPD member to make a one-time change to MA/MAPD following IEP/ICEP. It must be used within the initial month of enrollment or if enrollment occurred within the previous 2 months. You might, however, have a different SEP available depending on your circumstances.

    2. OEP new is an SEP as I am a medicare Insurance agent and u can use that SEP ONCE after using IEP if not satisfied so answer is Yes Wanda

      1. You’re absolutely right, April ! OEP NEW is an SEP and it’s available to NEW Medicare Advantage enrollees. The ONE-time election begins the month of effective date to Part A and Part B and for two additional months. So they can enroll in a different MA/MAPD.

  6. Hi Lindsay,
    Can Part B date be further than your proposed effective date of coverage?
    For eg. coverage effective date: 09/01/2021
    Part B date: 11/01/2021

    1. Hi Sharique! Yes, you would just need to reach out to Medicare to let them know you want to delay coverage for two months.

  7. Hi, if I qualify to get IEP, when and how should I apply for it?and when can I actually use my benefit after getting IEP?

  8. If a beneficiary uses IEP to enroll in a PDP/ MS plan, then prior to the eff date of the PDP decides they want an MAPD plan, do they still have the ICEP, or do they run concurrently and is a single choice plan selection for both IEP and ICEP?

    1. Hi Steve! Great question! During your IEP/ICEP you can make as many changes as you want. The last plan you enroll in is what will go into effect. If you enrolled in a plan you didn’t want and it went into effect already, you will just end up paying the premium but can still switch as long as you’re still within your IEP/ICEP. So yes, you can switch from PDP/MS to MAPD as long as you are still within your IEP or ICEP. Both of these Initial Enrollment Periods are within the same time frame as long as you’re enrolling at 65.

  9. If a beneficiary already has part A while still employed, but retire and became effective with part B in july, is that considered an ICEP?

  10. I turn 65 in April 2022, I’m applying for Medicare Part A & B in January. When can I apply for a Medicare Advantage Plan?

    1. Hi Ginny! What Parts of Medicare are you trying to enroll in? For Part B, you would use your ICEP if you delayed enrolling when first eligible. Then you would use the LIS SEP to enroll in a prescription plan.

      1. What if someone already used their ICEP for a PDP, can they use the SEP to start an MAPD instead with the same start date?

      2. Hi Lauren! If they are still in their ICEP, they can change to an MAPD. The start date will depend on when they enrolled. If they enroll early enough, it is possible to have the same start date. They would not need to use a SEP if they are still within their ICEP.


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