Medicare Enrollment Periods

To enroll in 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. Understanding the different enrollment periods is essential if you are new to Medicare or wish to change your Medicare elections.

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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, you should utilize the Initial Enrollment Period.

Medicare Enrollment Period Chart

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.

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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.

For example, if you turn 65 on June 1, your enrollment period begins on March 1 and ends on September 30.

If you enroll in Medicare during the three 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 three months following.

What is the IEP for Medicare Before Turning 65?

If you receive Medicare benefits before age 65 due to a disability, you will receive a second Initial Enrollment Period. This will happen when you turn 65 and is known as the Initial Enrollment Period 2.

For example, if you become eligible for Medicare at age 57 due to 24 months on disability, you will have another opportunity to enroll again at age 65 with no late enrollment penalties.

During the Initial Enrollment Period 2, you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan and a Medicare Part D plan. The Initial Enrollment Period 2 runs for the same seven-month period as the Initial Enrollment Period.

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.

A 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.

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Once your employer coverage is terminated, you will receive a Special Enrollment Period to enroll in Original Medicare. If you qualify, your Special Enrollment Period will last eight months from the termination date of your employer coverage.

Once you are on Original Medicare, you will have a 63-day Special Enrollment Period to sign up for a Medicare Part D plan. Enrolling in prescription drug coverage once you lose employer benefits is essential to avoid paying the Medicare Part D late enrollment penalty.

Additionally, suppose you are on a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plan and experience a life-changing event. In that case, you will qualify for a Special Enrollment Period to change your coverage.

These life-changing events include:

  • Moving out of your plan’s service area
  • Your plan no longer services your area
  • You move in or out of a nursing home
  • You lose or gain Medicaid coverage
  • You become approved for (or lose) Extra Help benefits
  • You are impacted by an Emergency or Disaster declared by the state or federal government
  • You were recently incarcerated

If you believe you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, our licensed Medicare agents can help. Because your Special Enrollment Period is time-sensitive, our licensed Medicare agents will assist you in finding new Medicare coverage in a timely manner. Please complete our online rate form to learn more.

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 place. In such a case, you will need to wait until the General Enrollment Period to sign up for Original Medicare.

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.

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Creditable coverage is health insurance that provides at least equal benefits to Original Medicare. We recommend you enroll in Medicare coverage as soon as you are eligible or lose creditable coverage to avoid paying the late enrollment penalty.

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.

A Medicare Supplement plan is essential for Medicare enrollees who wish to pay as little out-of-pocket for healthcare coverage as possible. Medicare Supplement plans cover the costs that Medicare Part A and Part B leave behind, eliminating the high expenses associated with Medicare coverage.

Enrolling in Medigap during a guaranteed-issue period is essential. Especially if you have pre-existing conditions that could result in denial of your policy in the future.

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.

Private insurance companies offer Medicare Advantage plans. These plans provide additional benefits to Original Medicare coverage. Often, they include dental, hearing, vision, prescription drug coverage, and gym memberships to enrollees. On the other hand, these plans tend to have high out-of-pocket costs and are more restrictive than Original Medicare in terms of doctor networks.

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.

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What is the Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare?

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

These changes include:

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

Suppose you use the Annual Enrollment Period to return to Original Medicare from Medicare Advantage. You can enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan to alleviate your Original Medicare out-of-pocket costs. This plan will begin on January 1 of the following year.

However, you must pass medical underwriting to enroll in the Medicare Supplement plan.

Annual Enrollment Period vs Open Enrollment Period

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.

This enrollment period benefits those who could not change their Medicare Advantage coverage during the Annual Enrollment Period. Additionally, if you are unhappy with your new Medicare Advantage plan, this window is your opportunity to make a change.

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

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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.

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 Medicare experts 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!

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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 June 2022.
  2. Medicare Benefits, SSA. Accessed June 2022.
  3. Understanding Medicare Part C and D Enrollment Periods, KFF. Accessed June 2022.

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.

31 thoughts on “Medicare Enrollment Periods

    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.

  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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