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Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods

No obligation to enroll

Each year there are set times a person can enroll in Medicare or change existing Medicare plans. There are separate enrollment periods for Medicare Parts A and B (Original Medicare) and Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage).

The Medicare Enrollment periods are as follows:

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) – the first time an eligible person can enroll in Medicare Parts A and B. This timeline begins three months before the month of a person’s 65th birthday and continues through the three months after
a person’s 65th birthday.

General Enrollment Period (GEP) – runs January 1 through 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 for Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan (AEP) – current Medicare recipients can change or enroll in Medicare Advantage coverage during this period that runs October 15 through
December 7.

Special Enrollment Period (SEP) – certain life events can lead to an individual being eligible for enrolling in Original Medicare or enrolling in or changing Medicare Advantage coverage.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP) – runs from January 1 through March 31 and was new in 2019 and allows Medicare Advantage participants to make a one-time plan from during this time frame.

During Medicare’s AEP, which occurs each fall, 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 Prescription Drug plan (Part D) to another.
  • Add a Prescription Drug plan if you didn’t enroll when first eligible for Medicare.

Opportunities for a Medicare Advantage Special Enrollment Period include:

  • 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

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP) allows beneficiaries in a Medicare Advantage only 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

No obligation to enroll