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Understanding Enrollment Periods

There are certain times of the year or specific circumstances when you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.

Initial Enrollment Period

When you’re first eligible for Medicare (for example, when you turn 65), you have a 7-month window to sign up for Part A and/or Part B or a Medicare Advantage plan. That time period is 3 months before your birthday month, your birthday month, and 3 months after your birthday month. So, if you turn 65 in March, for example, you can enroll December through June.

Annual Enrollment Period

The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is October 15-December 7 every year. During this time, you can switch, drop, or join a Medicare Advantage plan, or enroll in Original Medicare and a Prescription Drug plan.

Open Enrollment Period

The Open Enrollment Period (OEP) is January 1-March 31 every year. This is your only opportunity outside of the Annual Enrollment Period (Oct. 15-Dec. 7) to switch Medicare Advantage plans. During this time, you can:

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare, Part A and Part B
  • Sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan (if you return to Original Medicare). Most Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage already. Usually, you can’t enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug plan if you already have a Medicare Advantage plan, but there are some situations where you can.

Special Enrollment Period

There are specific circumstances that make you eligible to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan any time of the year. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. If you think you qualify, talk to your local sales agent.

  • Have you recently moved to a different county or state?
  • Are you currently receiving Extra Help with your healthcare costs?
  • Do you no longer qualify for Extra Help with your healthcare costs?
  • Have you recently left a PACE program (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly)?
  • Do you live in a long-term care facility?
  • Have you recently obtained lawful presence in the United States?
  • Have you recently retired and lost your employer or union coverage?
  • Will you be moving into a long-term care facility?
  • Have you recently moved out of a long-term care facility?
  • Are you currently receiving Medicaid?
  • Have you recently stopped receiving Medicaid?
  • Have you recently been released from incarceration?