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What are Medicare Enrollment Periods?

  • Medicare with Melissa

Medicare has several different enrollment periods. Each enrollment period has a specific set of rules. Understanding when you can enroll or the best time for you to enroll is very important. Many people will enroll during their Initial Enrollment Period. If you continue to work, you do not have to enroll in Medicare Part B.

Important dates to remember for Medicare Enrollment Periods

Mark your calendar now! These are important dates for Medicare enrollment periods.  

  • Medicare Annual Enrollment Period: October 15 – December 7
  • Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period: January 1 – March 31
  • General Enrollment Period for Part A and Part B: January 1 – March 31. Coverage will begin on July 1
  • Initial Enrollment Period begins: Three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after you turn 65
  • Special Enrollment Period: Usually within 60 days of a life changing event. If you lose your group insurance, you have an 8-month period to sign up for Part B.  

Detailed description of all enrollment periods:

Initial Enrollment Period

Your initial Medicare Advantage enrollment period is a 7-month period. It begins 3 months before you turn 65, it includes your birthday month, and it extends 3 months after your birthday. You can enroll in any Medicare insurance plan.

Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period

Your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period takes place when you are new to Medicare Part B.

This is the best time to enroll in a Medigap Plan because your coverage is guaranteed and your coverage cant be denied.

If you miss your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, you can still enroll in a Medigap Plan at a later time, but your coverage may not be guaranteed and you will likely need to answer medical questions to qualify for coverage.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MAOEP)

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period runs every year from January 1 through March 31 and allows enrollees to either switch to Original Medicare or switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan.

Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

  • This is sometimes called Open Enrollment. The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period is October 15 to December 7 every year. During AEP you can join, switch or drop a plan. For example, you can: 
  • Enroll in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) or Medicare prescription drug (Part D) plan.
  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage or Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Drop a Medicare Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare (Parts A and B). Then you could also apply for a Medicare Supplement plan.
  • Replace a Medicare Advantage plan with a standalone Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • If you don’t make any changes during AEP, your current plan will automatically renew next year.

Special Enrollment Periods (SEP)

  • The Special Enrollment Period lets you enroll in Original Medicare outside of your IEP due to certain life changing events. For example, you might wait to enroll if you’re still working. Timing depends on when the life changing event happens. Examples include:
  • Loss of employment 
  • Retirement
  • Employer or group coverage ends
  • Move and your current plan will not cover you
  • Your current Medicare Advantage plan is no longer offered in your area
  • Qualifying for Medicaid
  • Being diagnosed with a severe or chronic condition

General Enrollment Period (GEP)

For those who miss the Initial Enrollment Period for Part B, there is a General Enrollment Period between January 1st through March 31st each year. Keep in mind, enrollment begins on January 1st for coverage that begins on July 1st.

Learn More: How Much Does Medicare cost?

People Also Searched: What documents do I need to apply for Medicare?

Consider: Applying for Medicare

People Also Read: Should I stay with Original Medicare or Choose a Medicare Advantage Plan?

Meet Melissa MacCalla

Medicare is not simple and can be hard, frustrating, and downright confusing for most. I love when I get someone on the phone and I am given the opportunity to explain the difference in plans to them and have Medicare make sense. I enjoy talking to clients year after year, hearing about their families growing or them asking about mine.


Oh my gosh!! I was so confused about the Medicare Supplement process. I am turning 65 soon and am retired and have always had insurance thru my former employer. I didn’t know a thing about going on Medicare and was struggling to sort it all out.

A friend of mine recommended contacting Senior HealthCare Solutions, so I did. Melissa was FANTASTIC!! She was professional, responsive, caring and friendly. She explained the steps I needed to take, gathered my information, helped me choose good plans for MY specific needs and took care of my applications over the phone. 1-2-3, eesy-peesy and I was done!! And it didn’t cost me a DIME!!! WOW!!! I HIGHLY recommend Senior Healthcare Solutions for anyone who’s overwhelmed with making the right choices with Medicare Supplemental Insurance and Rx coverage. It’ll take a load off your mind!

Janice W.

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