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Medicare Enrollment Periods

Summary: There are various Medicare enrollment periods for you to enroll in coverage. The best time to sign up for Medicare is during one of these enrollment periods, so you don’t face a penalty. Learn more about when and how to enroll in Medicare here. Estimated Read Time: 4 mins

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Table of Contents:

  1. What is the Enrollment Period for Medicare?
  2. Medicare Enrollment Period Chart
  3. What is IEP in Medicare?
  4. Special Enrollment Period for Medicare
  5. General Enrollment Period for Those Who Delay Medicare Coverage
  6. Is There an Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Supplement Plans?
  7. Is There an Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage Plans?
  8. What is the Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare?
  9. When is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?
  10. Do I Have to Enroll in Medicare Every Year?
  11. How to Get Help Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods

To enroll in Original Medicare benefits, you must do so during a Medicare enrollment period. There are several enrollment periods available that allow you to enroll in certain benefits depending on your circumstances. If you are new to Medicare, understanding the different enrollment periods is essential. Doing so will help you when it comes time to enroll in Original Medicare or if you wish to change your Medicare elections.

Below, we explore all Medicare enrollment periods and how you can utilize them to obtain coverage.

What is the Enrollment Period for Medicare?

Due to the number of enrollment periods available, it is easy to confuse the details of each window. Different enrollment periods have different rules and dates for various purposes. There are many enrollment periods for people signing up for Medicare benefits for the first time. You may not need to apply for benefits when you are new to Medicare. You could automatically enroll in Medicare coverage if you meet a few requirements.

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If you receive Social Security benefits when you turn 65, you will automatically receive Original Medicare. Thus, you will not need to take action to enroll yourself in Medicare Part A and Part B.

If you do not qualify for automatic enrollment for Medicare benefits, you should utilize the Initial Enrollment Period.

What Are the Three Enrollment Periods for Medicare?

The three enrollment periods for Original Medicare and any supplemental Medicare coverage are:

  • Initial Enrollment Period
  • General Enrollment Period
  • Annual Enrollment Period

There is also the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period and the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period. However, these periods are only for enrollment into their respective types of coverage. You may also qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, but only under specific circumstances.

Medicare Enrollment Period Chart

This helpful chart explains each Medicare Enrollment Period. Some of these only happen once in your lifetime, so you don’t want to miss out, or you could face a penalty. There are also annual periods where you can change your coverage if you’d like, such as enrolling in a Medicare Supplement plan or in Medicare Advantage.

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Medicare Enrollment Periods

What is IEP in Medicare?

Your Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare is a seven-month Medicare enrollment period that allows you to enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B. You will receive this enrollment period upon your 65th birthday or receiving your 24th Social Security disability check, whichever comes first.

During your Initial Enrollment Period, you can enroll in both parts of Original Medicare or delay Medicare Part B. For most, enrolling in Medicare Part A makes perfect sense due to its $0 monthly premium. However, delaying Medicare Part B benefits is not uncommon if you have creditable coverage.

The Initial Enrollment Period begins three months before your Medicare enrollment qualifying event, lasts through the month of, and ends three months after your qualifying event. For most, this enrollment period happens around their 65th birthday. However, if your birthday is on the first day of the month, your Initial Enrollment Period will begin four months before your birth month and end two months later.

If you enroll in Medicare during the months before your 65th birthday, your Original Medicare benefits will go into effect on the first day of your birth month. Coverage will begin on the first day of the following month if you enroll during your birth month or in the months following.

Special Enrollment Period for Medicare

One of the most complicated Medicare enrollment periods is the Special Enrollment Period. Not everyone on Medicare will become eligible for a Special Enrollment Period. Additionally, those who do become eligible must prove that they qualify.

Special Enrollment Period happens when you delay Original Medicare enrollment when you were first eligible with creditable coverage. The most common reason for postponing Original Medicare coverage is because you had employer coverage in place when you turned 65.

General Enrollment Period for Those Who Delay Medicare Coverage

Suppose you do not enroll in Original Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period and do not have creditable coverage. In such a case, you must wait until the General Enrollment Period to sign up for Original Medicare.

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The General Enrollment Period runs annually from January 1 to March 31. When you sign up for Medicare during the General Enrollment Period, your coverage goes into effect on the first day of the following month. For example, if you enroll during March, your coverage will become effective on April 1.

Remember, when you enroll in Original Medicare during the General Enrollment Period, you may be responsible for paying late enrollment fees. Yet, this depends on how long you delayed Medicare benefits without creditable coverage.

Is There an Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Supplement Plans?

Your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period begins the first day of the month your Medicare Part B becomes effective. This six-month enrollment period grants you guaranteed issue rights for any Medigap plan available to you. However, many carriers allow you to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan up to six months before your Medicare Part B start date.

If you miss your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period, you can still apply for Medigap coverage throughout the year. However, there is still a chance of denial due to Medicare Supplement underwriting questions.

Is There an Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage Plans?

Once you are on Original Medicare, you can enroll in additional coverage. One such type of coverage is Medicare Advantage.

The best time to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan is during your Initial Enrollment Period. During this time, you can enroll in any Medicare Advantage plan. If you miss this window to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you must wait until the Annual Enrollment Period or have a Special Enrollment Period to sign up.

What is the Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare?

The Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare occurs each year from October 15 to December 7 and allows those on Medicare to make several changes to their Part D and Part C coverage.

Annual Enrollment Period vs Open Enrollment Period

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When is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period allows anyone on Medicare Advantage to make a one-time change to their coverage from January 1 through March 31.

During the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, you can switch Medicare Advantage plans or return to Original Medicare.

It is essential to understand that this enrollment period is only for those already on Medicare Advantage. You may not enroll in a new Medicare Advantage plan during this time.

Do I Have to Enroll in Medicare Every Year?

No, once you’re enrolled in Medicare, you do not need to re-enroll each year. However, it’s a good idea to compare plans every year during the Annual Enrollment Period to make sure you have the coverage you need in your area. Then if you need to change your coverage, you can make those changes for the upcoming year.

How to Get Help Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods

Enrolling in Medicare while you have a valid enrollment period is essential. Missing these enrollment periods can lead to late penalties, lack of coverage, or denial of coverage in the future.

To ensure you enroll in the right coverage at the right time, we have a team of licensed agents available to help at any step of the enrollment process. To compare plans in your area during your valid Medicare enrollment period, complete our online rate form 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. When does Medicare coverage start?, Medicare. Accessed August 2023.
    https://www.medicare.gov/basics/get-started-with-medicare/sign-up/when-does-medicare-coverage-start
  2. Medicare Benefits, SSA. Accessed August 2023.
    https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare/
  3. Understanding Medicare Part C and D Enrollment Periods, KFF. Accessed August 2023.
    https://www.kff.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2012/10/11219.pdf
Kayla Hopkins

Kayla Hopkins

Content Editor
Kayla Hopkins is an accomplished writer and Medicare educator 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.

33 thoughts on "Medicare Enrollment Periods"

  1. Hello,
    I turned 65 on October 7th 2023. I enrolled in my unions Medicare Advantage Plan within the 3 months before that, during my initial enrollment period. Because of all the confusion about Medicare and Medicare advantage plans, I am not sure I made the correct choice. I may have been better off buying a Medicare gap policy instead. Can I change back to original Medicare before my initial enrollment period( 3 months after turning 65 ) without penalty or requiring a medical exam?

    1. Hi Brian! Yes, as long as you’re still within your Initial Enrollment Period, you can switch back to Original Medicare and enroll in a Medigap policy without penalty or an exam. You just have to unenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan first before enrolling in a Medigap plan. You can call our number and speak to one of our agents whenever you’re ready to start this process, and they can walk you through it and help you decide which Medigap plan is best for you.

    1. If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period but have creditable coverage, you will be granted a Special Enrollment Period. This means you should not be charged a late enrollment penalty for missing your Initial Enrollment.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 ?

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

  11. 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 Dean! You can enroll up to three months before your 65th birthday during your Initial Coverage Election Period.

    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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