When is your next opportunity to change Medicare plans? When is the time to sign up? It all depends on your age, eligibility, plan type, and what time of year it is. Read on for a breakdown of the different enrollment windows to find out the next time you can sign up for Medicare or change your Medicare plan.
Initial Enrollment Period
If you’ve not yet enrolled in Medicare, and you’re under age 65, you’ll need to wait for your Initial Enrollment Period to join Medicare. This period starts 3 months before your birthday month, so if your birthday is on June 6, you’ll be able to enroll starting March 1.
Some people become eligible for Medicare before age 65. This is usually due to a disability or diagnosis.
- If you have been receiving Social Security Benefits due to a disability for 24 months, you are eligible for Medicare. Your enrollment period begins after your twenty-second month on Social Security.
- If you are diagnosed with ALS, you are immediately eligible for Medicare.
- If you are diagnosed with End-Stage Renal Disease, you are eligible after your first dialysis treatment.
General Enrollment Period
If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period, you may enroll during the General Enrollment Period, which takes place Jan. 1 – Mar. 31 each year. If you sign up during this window, your coverage will start July 1. But be aware, you could be subject to late enrollment penalties if you don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period during this time!
Annual Enrollment Period (or Open Enrollment)
Typically considered the busiest season, this is the time of year when Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their chosen Medicare plans. While Parts A and B are the same for everyone, you can shop for Part D coverage or a Medicare Advantage plan to round out your health insurance. The Annual Enrollment Period takes place every year from Oct. 15 – Dec. 7.
Special Enrollment Periods
Special Enrollment Periods are not date-specific. Instead, they rely upon a life-changing event to occur. Things like: a change in marital status, a change in enrollment status, relocation to or out of a skilled nursing facility, etc. will qualify you for a Special Enrollment Period in which you can change your Medicare plan to something that better fits your new situation.
Other Medicare Enrollment Windows
- Medicare Supplement Initial Enrollment: After you’ve signed up for Original Medicare, you are able to sign up for a Medicare Supplement (or Medigap) plan to fill in the gaps of Medicare.This period automatically starts the first month you have Medicare Part B and you’re at least 65 years of age. There is a big advantage to enrolling during this time — you are guaranteed coverage at the lowest possible rate, with no health checks required! After this enrollment window ends, you could be denied coverage based on your health history.
- Part D Initial Enrollment: Original Medicare does not cover prescription costs. Since prescriptions are a major component of health care, it’s important to get coverage for these rising expenses. This enrollment window lines up with the Initial Enrollment Window, so be sure to sign up for Part D alongside your Part A and Part B coverage. After that, you could be subject to late enrollment penalties.
- Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment: If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you will be able to make Medicare changes during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, which runs Jan. 1 through Mar. 31 each year. If you are unhappy with your Medicare Advantage plan, you have a chance to change plans or enroll in Original Medicare (and Part D) instead.