Category: Medicare

Medicare Enrollment Periods Explained

Confused about when you can enroll in Medicare or change your Medicare coverage?

Enrollment in Medicare is limited to certain times depending on your specific circumstances and the type of plan you choose to enroll in. It’s important to know when you have an opportunity to enroll in the different parts of Medicare: Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Medicare prescription drug plans (Part D). If you enroll outside of Medicare’s specified periods, you may end up with late fees, higher premiums and gaps in coverage.

Here are the official Medicare enrollment periods:

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) – Three months before to three months after you become eligible for Medicare

This is limited to those who are turning 65 or qualify as Medicare disabled and, therefore, are becoming eligible for Medicare for the first time.

In most cases, if you fail to sign up for Part B during your IEP, you may face penalties in the form of higher premiums that you will have to pay for as long as you have Part B coverage.


Also, it is important to note that if you wait until the month you turn 65 (or during the 3 months after you turn 65) to enroll, your Part B coverage will be delayed. This could cause a gap in your coverage (but no penalty applies during this time).

Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) – October 15 to December 7
During the Annual Enrollment Period, you can switch, drop or join a different Medicare plan. It’s important to use the AEP to shop around a little and make sure you are getting all the benefits and savings you’re entitled to. Don’t be afraid to use this time period to compare plans and make a change if it will save you money and give you better coverage. If you switch plans, the new plan will be effective January 1.

Open Enrollment Period (OEP) – January 1 to March 31
This is limited to Medicare Advantage enrollees. You can make a one-time election to leave your plan and switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or Original Medicare. You can also add or drop Part D coverage during this time.

Special Enrollment Period (SEP) – Year-round
Only in certain cases can those who are eligible for Medicare qualify for an SEP to enroll in a Medicare plan. Examples of when you would be eligible for an SEP include a recent move that made new Medicare options available to you or leaving employer or union coverage. To find out if you are eligible for the Special Enrollment Period, visit

Interested in learning more about enrolling in Medicare? Visit our Medicare Learning Center and check out the Medicare Timeline Series.

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