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If you are enrolling in Part D for the first time, it is always best to enroll during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). If you missed your enrollment or IEP, you will have to wait for another enrollment period. Many people will enroll or change their plans during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). During AEP, Medicare beneficiaries can add, change, or drop their Part D plan.

1. Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

Medicare offers those who are turning 65 a 7-month period of time to enroll called the Initial Enrollment Period. Initial Enrollment begins three months prior to your 65th birthday and ends three months after you turn 65. After you enroll in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and during your IEP, you can purchase a Medicare Supplement plan, a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan or a Medicare prescription drug (Part D) plan.

2. 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 the next year.

3. Special Enrollment Period (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:

  1. Loss of employment
  2. Retirement
  3. Move and your current plan will not cover you

4. Qualify for Extra Help

If you qualify for Extra Help, you can change plans one time during each of these periods: January–March, April–June, or July–September. This includes people who have Medicare and Medicaid, belong to a Medicare Savings Program, get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, and those who apply and qualify. If you make a plan change, it will take effect on the first day of the following month. You’ll have to wait for the next period to make another plan change. 

Learn More: What is Extra Help?

People Also Read: Who Qualifies for Medicare Part D?

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