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Medicare Enrollment Periods

What are the Medicare enrollment periods?

Each year, there are five set times you can enroll in Medicare or change existing Medicare plans. They include:

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

The first time an eligible person can enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B. This timeline begins three months before the month of a person’s 65th birthday and continues through the three months following a person’s 65th birthday.

General Enrollment Period (GEP)

Runs January 1-March 31 each year and provides an enrollment opportunity for individuals who didn’t sign up for Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) when they were first eligible. Individuals may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for not enrolling when first eligible and coverage will not start until July 1 of that year.

Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

Current Medicare recipients can change or enroll in Medicare Advantage coverage during this period that runs October 15-December 7 each year. During AEP, you can:

  • Switch from Medicare Parts A and B (Original Medicare) to a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C)
  • Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug plan (Part D) to another
  • Add a Part D plan if you didn’t enroll when first eligible for Medicare

Special Enrollment Period (SEP)

Certain life events can lead to an individual being eligible to enroll in Original Medicare or enrolling/changing Medicare Advantage coverage. You can utilize SEP if you’re:

  • Moving to a new location where new plan options are available
  • Losing employer coverage
  • Being diagnosed with a qualifying chronic condition, such as diabetes or chronic heart failure
  • Moving in or out of a skilled nursing facility or long-term care hospital

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP)

Runs from January 1-March 31 and was new in 2019, allowing Medicare Advantage participants to make a one-time plan. OEP allows beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan to make a one-time change to:

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Drop Medicare Advantage and return to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B)
  • Sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan, if an individual elects to return to an Original Medicare plan

The Medicare Advantage OEP is only accessible for current Medicare Advantage policyholders. During Medicare Advantage OEP, Original Medicare policyholders cannot:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug plan (Part D)
  • Switch Medicare Prescription Drug plans

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