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Understanding the Medicare Enrollment Periods

There are enrollment periods each year that Medicare beneficiaries can enroll or change Medicare plans. Here’s a quick guide to help you understand the different Medicare enrollment periods. 

Medicare Initial Enrollment Period

The Medicare Initial Enrollment Period is the first time an eligible individual can enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B. This timeline begins three months before the month of your 65th birthday and continues through the three months following your 65th birthday.

Medicare General Enrollment Period

The Medicare General Enrollment Period, which runs from January 1-March 31 each year, is an opportunity for individuals to apply for Original Medicare (Part A and/or Part B) if they were not automatically enrolled in Medicare or missed their Initial Enrollment Period. If you use this period to enroll, coverage begins on July 1 of the same year. 

Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan

The Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan Annual Enrollment period runs from October 15-December 7 each year. During this time, Medicare recipients can evaluate their current Medicare coverage and make changes, oftentimes resulting in more affordable or more accurate coverage. Medicare plan details change annually, so it’s a good idea to compare your Medicare plan options during this time each year to make sure your health and prescription drug needs are covered. Any changes you make during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period will take effect on January 1st of the following year. 

Medicare Special Enrollment Period

The Medicare Special Enrollment Period takes place when certain events or life changes occur, giving you the opportunity to make changes to your existing Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage. Some of the most common Special Enrollment Period events for Medicare Advantage 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

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period runs from January 1-March 31 each year. During this period, those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans (also known as Medicare Part C) are provided a one-time opportunity to:

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan
  • Drop a 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 electing to return to an Original Medicare plan

Still unsure about when you can enroll? This quiz can help you figure out when you should be eligible to enroll or make changes to your elections.

Save yourself time and the hassle of navigating the Medicare maze on your own by working with SelectQuote. In just minutes, we can compare all the Medicare options available for you. Don’t wait to ensure you’re getting all the benefits you deserve. It’s a free service and there’s no obligation to enroll.

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