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Medicare Enrollment Periods

You have a seven-month time frame that includes the month you turn 65 to first enroll in a Medicare plan. If you don't sign up at the right time, you might have to wait for your coverage to start, or you might get penalties. This could end up costing you more money.

Here are the important times for signing up that you should know about:

Initial Enrollment Period


Happy 65th birthday! Now you can sign up for a Medicare plan. You have seven months to do this — starting three months before your 65th birthday month, including your birthday month, and ending three months after your 65th birthday. During this time, you can:

• Enroll in Medicare (Parts A and B)

• Enroll in a stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D)

• Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C)

If you don't sign up for Medicare Parts A and B or Part D when you first can, you might have to pay more in the form of higher premiums.

Some people might be able to get Medicare earlier if they have a disability, end-stage kidney disease, or ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Remember: If you’re already getting Social Security when you turn 65, you will automatically get Original Medicare (Parts A and B).

Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period


If you want to add to your Original Medicare coverage to help pay for extra costs, the best time to get a Medicare Supplement plan is during the six-month period that starts the first day of the month you turn 65 — as long as you've signed up for Medicare Part B.

If you don't sign up for a Medicare Supplement plan during this Open Enrollment Period, you might not be able to get a Medicare Supplement plan later. If you don't have a special right to get one, you may have to answer health questions.

General Enrollment Period

You can also sign up for Part A and/or Part B from January 1 to March 31 each year if both of these things are true:

• You didn't sign up when you first could.

• You can't sign up during a Special Enrollment Period (see below).

Your coverage will start on July 1. And you might have to pay penalties.

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Annual Enrollment Period

Everyone can change their coverage and enroll in a Medicare plan each year, from October 15 to December 7.

  • If you have Original Medicare, you can switch to a Medicare Advantage plan — or switch back.

  • You can switch from a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage to one without — or switch back.

  • You can join or leave a Medicare prescription drug plan.

  • You can update your coverage by switching to a new plan from your current insurance company or switching to a different insurance company.

If you choose to change during the Annual Enrollment Period, your new coverage will start on January 1.

Remember: If you’re happy with your current coverage, you don't have to change. In most cases, your current Medicare plan will renew automatically on January 1.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

This period happens from January 1 through March 31 each year. It lets people who have a Medicare Advantage plan make a one-time change to either another Medicare Advantage plan with or without prescription drug coverage or to Original Medicare. You’ll also be able to join a Medicare prescription drug plan.

Either way, your new coverage will start on the first day of the next month after you make a change.

Remember: If you switch back to Original Medicare, you can also add a Medicare Supplement plan. But, unless you’re still within the six-month Medicare Supplement Enrollment Period, the insurance companies will make you answer health questions to get coverage.

Special Enrollment Period

During a Special Enrollment Period (SEP), you can join, switch, or leave a Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan outside the regular sign-up times. To get an SEP, something has to happen that makes you need to change your coverage. These things can include:

  • You move out of your plan’s service area.

  • You move back to the U.S. after living outside the country.

  • You move into or out of a nursing home, mental health facility, rehab hospital, or long-term care facility.

  • Your job ends or your employer's plan ends.

The rules about what changes you can make and when you can make them are different for each situation. For more details, go to Medicare.gov.

Common Questions About Medicare Enrollment

Can I qualify for Medicare if I'm under 65?

Yes, you can qualify for Medicare if you're under 65 in certain situations. If you have been receiving Social Security disability benefits or Railroad Retirement Board disability benefits for at least 24 months, you'll be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B.

What if I already receive Social Security benefits?

If you're already receiving Social Security benefits, you'll be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B starting the first day of the month you turn 65. You don't need to take any additional steps to enroll.

What if I have a Health Savings Account (HSA)?

If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) and plan to enroll in Medicare, it's important to understand the rules and limitations. Once you enroll in Medicare, you can no longer contribute to your HSA. However, you can still use the funds in your existing HSA to pay for qualified medical expenses.

What else do I need to know about Medicare enrollment?

  • Your 8-month Special Enrollment Period for Part B starts when you stop working or lose your job-based health coverage.

  • If you want Medicare coverage to start when your job-based health insurance ends, you need to sign up for Part B the month before you or your spouse plan to retire at the very latest!

  • If you delay enrolling in Part B after your Initial Enrollment Period and don't have other creditable coverage, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty.

Call as soon as you know your retirement date to avoid any unnecessary delays or penalties!

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We do not offer every plan available in your area. Any information we provide is limited to those plans we do offer in your area. Please contact or ‍1-800-MEDICARE to get information on all of your options.

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