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Learning Center > Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods

Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods

Medicare enrollment periods

Everyone can enroll in Medicare in the seven-month period around their 65th birthday through the Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). It starts three months before your birth month, includes your birth month, and ends three months afterward. If you don’t enroll in Medicare (either Medicare Part A or Part B) during your IEP, you can enroll enroll in either during the General Enrollment Period that occurs annual from January 1 through March 31 of each year.

After you enroll in Medicare when can you change your Medicare coverage options?

There are three main enrollment periods that allow you to make changes to your coverage. Everyone with Medicare can make changes during the annual enrollment period (AEP). If you have certain qualifying events happen in your life, you may also have a special enrollment period (SEP) to allow changes. And if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, you will also have an opportunity to make changes during the MA open enrollment period (OEP) that happens at the beginning of the year. .

This article will cover these enrollment periods in more detail so you know exactly when you can make changes to your Medicare plan.

Special Enrollment Period SEP for those enrolled in Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plans

If you have special circumstances in your life, , you may qualify for a Medicare SEP to change your Medicare Advantage or Part D plan coverage. The special enrollment period options and length will be different for each circumstance.

For example, you could qualify for an SEP if you:

  • Retire from a job after age 65
  • Move
  • Become eligible for Medicaid
  • Have your Medicare plan terminated by the insurer
  • Lose other medical or drug coverage

To learn more about Medicare SEPs, check out our guide on special enrollment periods.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment (MA OEP) vs. Annual Enrollment (AEP)

Both Medicare annual enrollment period (AEP) and Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period (MA OEP) happen each year. However, there are some important differences. This will help you understand Medicare AEP vs Medicare Advantage OEP.

The Medicare annual enrollment period is between October 15th and December 7th of each year. During this time everyone with Medicare can join, switch, or drop any Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug plan (“Part D). Your coverage will begin on January 1st, as long as you make your choice by December 7th.

The Medicare Advantage open enrollment period applies only to those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans. From January 1st to March 31st each year, you can switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan, or switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare and join a separate drug plan.

To summarize the Medicare annual enrollment period vs Medicare Advantage open enrollment period:

Dates: Oct 15 - Dec 7 for AEP, Jan 1 - March 31 for Medicare Advantage OEP Costs: None beyond your plan’s monthly premiums Eligibility to Enroll: AEP — any Medicare beneficiary; OEP — Medicare Advantage enrollees only Form of Medicare Available: AEP — any; MA OEP — Change Medicare Advantage plans or Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare

Medicare Enrollment Periods Chart

This chart can help you understand Medicare open enrollment vs annual enrollment, along with special enrollment periods.

Medicare Annual Enrollment (AEP) Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment (OEP) Medicare Advantage & Part D Special Enrollment (SEP)
Start Date October 15th January 1st When a qualifying even occurs
End Date December 7th March 31st Varies
Notes Any Medicare beneficiary can make any changes Medicare Advantage enrollees only, limited changes Details depend on the qualifying event


Learn More About Medicare Enrollment Periods

Now that you understand the different enrollment periods, you might decide you want to make a change. Making the right choice for your needs is easier when you talk to a licensed insurance agent. Contact us today for any questions about enrollment periods or comparing Medicare plans!

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