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Medicare Advantage Enrollment Periods

There are various Medicare Advantage enrollment periods, including ones that allow you to enroll, switch, or change plans. Depending on your situation, you could be eligible for an enrollment period right now!

We know Medicare changes the script, so we update our content to reflect the most current and relevant information.

Let’s take a look at what times you can change plans and how to enroll. Then, you can understand your eligibility and determine the best time for you to switch up your coverage.

Medicare Advantage Enrollment Periods

First, let’s take a look at the different enrollment periods, and learn about the times you can enroll.

There are four enrollment periods for Medicare Advantage plans:

  • Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP)
  • Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)
  • Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
  • Special Enrollment Period (SEP)

If you’re new to Medicare, you’ll have an Initial Enrollment Period that allows you to enroll in Part A, Part B, and Part D.

At the same time, your Initial Coverage Election Period will also begin, which allows you to enroll in a private Medicare Advantage plan.

Initial Coverage Election Period

Your Initial Coverage Election Period will begin three months before your 65th birthday. Then, it ends either the last day of the month before you enroll in Part B or the last day of your Initial Enrollment Period, whichever is later.

Initial Enrollment Period When Delaying Part B

There’s a good chance you may be working past 65. Meaning, you may delay enrolling in Part B until you retire or lose group coverage.

You’ll get an 8-month Special Enrollment Period upon retiring or losing employer health coverage. You should sign up for Part B before retiring, so you don’t have any coverage gaps.

Depending on your situation, if it makes sense, you can sign up for Part B at any time while working and covered by employer group health coverage.

Along with your 8-month SEP to enroll in Part B, you’ll have your ICEP to register with Medicare Advantage.

Medicare Advantage Annual Enrollment Period

If you missed the Initial Coverage Enrollment Period, your next chance to join is during the Annual Enrollment Period.

The Annual Enrollment Period happens October 15th-December 7th. You can enroll in an Advantage plan with a start date of January 1st.

You can also use this enrollment window to disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan and switch back to Medicare.

After you disenroll from your Advantage plan, you can choose to pick up a Medigap plan and a stand-alone Part D drug plan.

If you miss the Annual Enrollment Period, your next chance to make changes is during the Open Enrollment Period.

When is Open Enrollment for Medicare Advantage Plans?

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period runs between January 1st and March 31st. It allows you to make a one time change to your current Medicare Advantage plan. Unless you have an Advantage plan, you cannot make any changes to your coverage. Open Enrollment Period is not for you to enroll in an Advantage plan for the first time. But, it’s to change your policy to another one or switch back to Medicare.

Medicare Advantage Special Enrollment Periods

There are a few events that allow beneficiaries to enroll in an Advantage plan or change their plan.

These particular circumstances give you a Special Enrollment Period. Keep reading to discover how to qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

Medicare Advantage “Trial Period” Special Enrollment Period

If you enrolled in a private Medicare Advantage plan during your ICEP, you have a “trial period.” This trial period is a 12-month window.

During this 12-month window, you have a SEP that allows you to disenroll from your first Medicare Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare.

At this same time, you’ll have a “Guaranteed Issue Right” to enroll in a Medigap plan. The Guaranteed Issue Right will last for 63 days after you disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan.

Trial Right After Switching from Medigap to Medicare Advantage

This same trial right applies to those who drop a Medigap plan and enroll in an Advantage plan for the first time.

In this scenario, you’ll also have a 12-month window that gives you a SEP to change your mind. Once you disenroll from your Advantage plan, you’ll have 63 days with Guaranteed Issue Rights.

But, this trial right does have some limits. You’re only allowed to enroll back into your previous Medigap plan if it’s still available in your area.

If your previous Medigap policy is no longer available, then you’re allowed to enroll in Medigap Plan A, B, D, G, K, or L.

Special Enrollment Periods for Limited Income

If you’re on a limited income, you’re eligible for a few Special Enrollment Periods.

Medicare Advantage Dual SEP

If you have both Medicare & Medicaid, you’re eligible for this SEP. This SEP allows you to enroll, disenroll, or switch to another plan once per quarter during the first three quarters.

During the 4th quarter, dual beneficiaries must use the AEP to make changes. If you lose Medicaid, this SEP will end two months after.

Medicare Advantage Low-Income Subsidy & Extra Help SEP

This enrollment period is for beneficiaries who are eligible for the Extra Help. This Special Enrollment Period is also for those who are dual-eligible for Medicare & Medicaid.

This period allows you to change to another Advantage plan once per quarter during the first three quarters of the year.

This Extra Help SEP begins the month you’re eligible for Extra Help. If you lose Extra Help, this SEP will end two months after.

Medicare Advantage State Pharmaceutical Assitance Program SEP

For states that take part in State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs, recipients can sign up or switch Part D plans. The period can only be used once per the calendar year.

Special Enrollment Periods When Moving

The Medicare Advantage relocation Special Enrollment Period is for those that move. Usually, since many plans are specific to a county, moving gives you new plan options.

The relocation window will begin the month before your move date and will last two months after you move.

FEMA Declared Weather Related Emergency or Major Disaster

If a major disaster impacted your enrollment, you’ll have a Special Enrollment Period.

If you rely on the help of a family member that lives in one of the areas impacted by a major disaster, you’ll qualify for a SEP.

This SEP window will start at the time of the emergency and will continue for four calendar months after.

Special Enrollment Periods for Institutionalized Individuals

The Open Enrollment Period is for those residing in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.

The enrollment period gives recipients a chance to change plans.

This SEP can be used by:

  • nursing homes
  • rehabilitation hospitals
  • psychiatric hospitals
  • long-term care hospitals

The enrollment period can also be used by individuals who are admitted to a Skilled Nursing Facility. It allows them to join a Special Needs Plan, or SNP, for institutionalized individuals.

This SEP window will begin the month of admission and will end two months after the individual is discharged.

Special Enrollment Period for Special Needs Plans

For those with chronic diseases, some areas offer Special Needs Plans. For example, if you have End-Stage Renal Disease and an ESRD Special Needs Plan is in your service area, you can sign up for that policy outside of a standard enrollment period.

Qualifying for a Special Needs Plans gives you an automatic Special Enrollment Period.

How to Compare Medicare Advantage Plans Now

There are many enrollment windows. CMS has a very long guide to the different options.

When making decisions regarding coverage, use the free help of an agent. Since some of the above enrollment periods only allow you to make a change one-time, don't do it alone. You could be stuck with a plan you don't want for an entire year.

Plus, if you run into any issues, our Client Care Team is always here to help. Give us a call, or use our compare rates form to compare all Medicare plans available in your area now.

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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.


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