When to Enroll
When you’re 65 and new to Medicare, there can be a lot of dates to remember. But signing up for Medicare is simple. If you’re receiving Social Security benefits, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A when you turn 65. If you’re delaying Social Security benefits past your 65th birthday, you’ll have to contact Social Security to enroll in Medicare Part A.
There are a few options for when you can enroll in Medicare Part B. The first time is the Initial Enrollment Period. This lasts for 7 months – the 3 months before your 65th birthday, the month of your birthday, and the 3 months after your birthday. If you don’t sign up then, you can sign up during the Annual Enrollment Period from October 15 through December 7.
There are four enrollment periods for Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans. Review them below to find which one is right for you.
Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)
Anyone can join, switch or drop a Medicare prescription drug plan between October 15 and December 7. If you apply during this time, coverage begins on January 1.
Open Enrollment Period (OEP)
The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP) is January 1 through March 31 each year. Medicare Advantage enrollees using the MA OEP have a Special Election Period (SEP) to add or change Part D coverage or may enroll in another MAPD plan or disenroll from our plan and return to Original Medicare. You may only make one election during the MA OEP Enrollment Period. You are also eligible to use the MA OEP if you are a new Medicare beneficiary who enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan during your Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP). It is also available for the first three months an individual has Medicare eligibility. The SEP is a onetime election to allow individuals enrolled in either a MAPD or Medicare Advantage only plan to switch to a MAPD, Medicare Advantage only or back to the Original Medicare with a stand-alone Part D Plan. If you are a new Medicare beneficiary who is enrolled in a MA plan during your ICEP, the OEP occurs the month of entitlement to Part A and Part B through the last day of the 3rd month of entitlement.
A Medicare Advantage eligible individual who elects Original Medicare during MA OEP may elect to enroll in a Prescription Drug plan during this time. The effective date for a MA OEP election is the first of the first of the month following receipt of the enrollment request.
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
When you first become eligible for Medicare, you can join during the 7-month period that starts 3 months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65 and ends 3 months after the month you turn 65.
Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
In most cases, you must stay in the plan for the calendar year when your coverage began. But you may be able to join, switch or drop a Medicare Advantage Plan during a Special Enrollment Period. Below is a list of some, but not all the reasons you may need to change during a Special Enrollment Period:
- Moving outside of the plan’s approved service area
- Entering or leaving a qualified institution, such as a nursing home
- Qualifying for low-income subsidy assistance (Extra Help)
- Enrolling in Medicaid
- Involuntarily losing creditable prescription drug coverage
- Leaving or losing your employer's health plan
Contact us if any of these situations apply to you.
For more information, refer to the Medicare and You Handbook.