It’s not difficult to enroll in Medicare or change your Medicare plan, but knowing when you can do it can be confusing. There are multiple Medicare enrollment periods throughout the year, but only a few may apply to your situation. This calendar will help you keep them correct.
Initial registration period
First, you must know your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). This is your first time applying for Medicare. Your IEP date will vary based on your individual circumstances. Missing your IEP may result in you having to pay late fines.
- Age Based: When you turn 65, you become eligible for Medicare. Your IEP starts three months before you turn 65 and ends three months after you turn 65.
- Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance: If you are 65 or older and have health insurance through an employer with at least 20 full-time employees, the special coverage period begins the month after you leave or lose that health insurance – whichever occurs Appeared first — and lasted for eight months.
- Based on End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD): Even if you didn’t enroll in Medicare immediately when you were eligible because of ESRD, once you do, you are eligible for retrospective ESRD coverage for up to 12 months.
- Based on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): You are eligible for Medicare after 24 months of receiving SSDI benefits. The Social Security Administration will automatically enroll you in Medicare after 24 months.
If you miss your IEP, you will have to wait to enroll in Medicare during your next general enrollment period.
General admission time
January 1st – March 31st
If you miss the initial registration period, you can register for Part A, Part B, or both at this time. However, be aware that this will leave you uninsured for several months. Your Medicare benefits won’t start until July 1.
Note that you cannot currently choose a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) or a Part D prescription plan. You must wait until the special enrollment period to add prescription drug coverage.
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
January 1st – March 31st
There used to be a Medicare Advantage opt-out period from January 1 to February 14. During this time, you can drop your Medicare Advantage plan and switch to Original Medicare. You can also choose a Part D plan to supplement your new Original Medicare (Parts A and B) coverage. What you cannot do is change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another or from one Part D plan to another.
In 2019, this was replaced by the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period. This new registration period is from January 1st to March 31st. You can do this:
- You can change your Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare.
- If you change to Original Medicare during this enrollment period, you can add a Part D plan.
- You can add a Part D plan to a stand-alone Medicare Advantage plan (a Medicare Advantage plan that does not include a Part D prescription plan).
- You can switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
You can take advantage of the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period only if you are already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. You can only use it once a year, i.e. you can’t make a change in January and then another change in March.
special admissions period
If you signed up for Medicare during your general enrollment period, you can enroll in a Part D plan at this time. You can also enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that includes Part D coverage, known as an MA-PD plan. You cannot currently choose a Medicare Advantage plan that does not have prescription drug coverage.
There are other Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs) associated with certain circumstances. These usually last two months unless otherwise stated.
SEPs based on changes to your current health plan:
- Your government cancels the contract with your plan and vice versa.
- You cannot use your health plan.
- Your health plan no longer provides reliable coverage.
- Your Medicare Advantage plan cancels its contract with the government. This has specific calendar dates, December 8th to February 28th/29th.
SEP is based on your coverage from one of the following health plans:
- extra help
- Plan of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
- State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program (SPAP)
- Veterans Benefits
Standard Essential Patents based on your residence:
- You are released from prison.
- You moved back to the United States from abroad.
- You move into a skilled nursing facility or long-term care hospital.
- You are removed from coverage under a Medicare Advantage plan.
Open registration period
October 15th – December 7th
This enrollment period is available to everyone in Medicare. During this time, you can change from Original Medicare with or without a Part D plan to Medicare Advantage with or without prescription drug coverage, or vice versa. You can also enroll, cancel, or change your Part D plan.
Five-star registration period
December 8 – November 30
If you want to enroll in a five-star Medicare Advantage plan or a Part D plan, you can enroll between December 8 and November 30 of the following year after the plan receives a five-star rating. You can choose to do it only once a year. If you want to withdraw from the 5-star program for any reason, you will have to wait until the open enrollment period to do so.