Once you become eligible for Medicare your opportunity to enroll in, or change your plan happens only during specific times each year. Understanding these different enrollment periods is an important part of maintaining your coverage, your choice of doctors and your continuity of care.
Annual Enrollment Period
Oct. 15 – Dec. 7
During the Annual Enrollment Period you can:
- join, change, or drop a Medicare Part C plan (also known as Medicare Advantage)
- join, change, or drop a Medicare Part D plan (prescription drug coverage)
- join a Medicare Cost plan with Part D
- add Part D coverage, if you are already enrolled in a Medicare Cost plan without it
Changes made during the Annual Enrollment Period become effective January 1 of the following year.
Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period
Jan. 1 – Feb. 14
During this time, you can drop a Medicare Advantage plan and also:
- switch to Original Medicare
- add a separate Medicare prescription drug plan (PDP), if you switch to Original Medicare or to a Cost plan without Part D prescription coverage
- enroll in a Medicare Cost plan with or without prescription drug coverage
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) and Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP)
Retiring at age 65
If you plan to retire at 65, your initial Medicare enrollment window is a 7-month period (usually around your 65th birthday) that includes:
- 3 months before you’re first eligible for Medicare coverage
- the month you start to qualify for Medicare coverage
- 3 months after you start to qualify for Medicare coverage
These 7 months typically also count as an Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) for Part D (prescription drug) coverage. This means you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage or a Cost plan with Part D. However, if you have Medicare Part B, you can join a Cost plan without Part D at any time.
Retiring after 65
If you plan to retire after 65, you can enroll in Part A and/or Part B during the 8-month period that begins the month after the employer or union group health plan coverage ends, or when the employment ends (which ever is first).
Special Enrollment Periods
There are unique circumstances that allow you to sign up for a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Cost plan—both with prescription drug coverage—or for a Medicare Part D plan (for prescription drug coverage) at various times of year.
You may qualify if any of the following applies to you:
- You were enrolled in another organization’s plan, but recently moved into a different service area.
- If you’re eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California), you may qualify for our Special Needs Plan (SNP), which is available in some plan service areas. Qualified beneficiaries may enroll in a SNP plan at any time.
- You had a Special needs plan, but recently lost eligibility for it.
- You are Medicare-Medicaid eligible or you recently lost eligibility.
- You qualify for Extra Help to pay for your prescription drug costs or you recently lost eligibility for this Extra Help.
- You will soon be enrolling in, are currently enrolled in or recently left an employer Group health plan.
- You recently lost creditable prescription drug coverage.
- You currently live in or recently left a nursing home.
Other events may qualify you for a Special Enrollment Period. For more information, call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) (toll-free) or 1-877-486-2048 (toll-free TTY for the hearing/speech impaired), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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