There are certain times when you can join a Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan or make changes to your Medicare coverage. These are called “enrollment periods.”
It’s important to review your Medicare health and drug coverage each year in order to see if it still meets your needs and decide if you want to make a change.
Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) – October 15 – December 7
During this time period, you can:
- Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan from Original Medicare
- Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare
- Enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug plan
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan (with or without drug coverage) to another Medicare Advantage plan (with or without drug coverage)
- Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug plan to another Medicare Prescription Drug plan
- Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely
If you made a change, your coverage will begin on January 1. If you kept your existing coverage and your plan’s costs or benefits changed, those changes will also start on January 1.
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP) - January 1 to March 31
If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan (with or without drug coverage), during this period you can:
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another (with or without drug coverage)
- Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare. You’ll also be able to join a separate Medicare Prescription Drug Plan
Any changes you make will be effective the first day of the month after the plan receives your request.
Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
In most cases, you must stay enrolled in your plan for the calendar year starting the date your coverage begins. However, you could qualify for a Special Enrollment Period during any month when certain events happen in your life. For example, you may qualify for an SEP if:
- You move
- You are eligible for Medicaid
- You move to an institution, like a skilled nursing facility or long-term care hospital
- You qualify for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs
- You want to switch to a plan with a 5-star overall quality rating
If you qualify for an SEP, you may be able to join, switch, or drop a Medicare Advantage plan.
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
The Initial Enrollment Period is when someone first becomes eligible and can sign up for Medicare. For most people, this is when they turn 65. It begins three months before your 65th birthday month and lasts three months after your 65th birthday month.
If you sign up in any of the three months before your 65th birthday month, your coverage will begin on the first day of your birthday month. If you sign up during or after your 65th birthday month, your coverage will begin on the first day of the following month your application is approved.
If you joined a Medicare Advantage plan during your Initial Enrollment Period, you have three months after your coverage starts to make a one-time switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or return to Original Medicare.