Enrolling in Medicare Advantage
There are different enrollment periods when it comes to Medicare. Some apply when you are first eligible, while some take place each year.
Understanding the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) for Medicare Advantage
AEP happens every year from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. This is the time when you can:
- Add or switch a Medicare Advantage plan.
- Drop Medicare Advantage and return to Original Medicare.
- Add, drop or switch a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan.
If you make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan during AEP, your new coverage will begin Jan. 1.
Additional Medicare Advantage enrollment periods
When you’re first eligible for Medicare, you have a seven-month IEP to sign up for Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and any additional coverage you may need (such as Medicare supplement opens new window and Part D prescription drug coverage opens new window, or Medicare Advantage).
IEP occurs three months before your 65th birthday, your birthday month and three months after.
If you missed your Initial Enrollment Period, your next opportunity to enroll in Original Medicare is GEP. But remember, because you missed your Initial Enrollment Period, you may be subject to late enrollment penalties.
GEP happens every year from Jan. 1 to March 31. If you sign up during this period, your coverage will be effective on July 1. This means you may have a gap in coverage.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan and find that it’s not working for your needs, you can make a one-time change during the OEP. The Medicare Advantage OEP happens every year from Jan. 1 to March 31 and during this time, you can do one of the following:
- Switch to another Medicare Advantage plan.
- Leave your Medicare Advantage plan and switch to Original Medicare, adding a Medicare drug plan, if needed.
Keep in mind, if you go back to Original Medicare during this time, you may not be able to buy another Medicare advantage plan until next year's AEP for coverage starting on Jan. 1.
Any changes you make during the Medicare Advantage OEP will go into effect on the first day of the month following the month you make a change.
You may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) if you’ve recently had a life event, such as moving to a different state or losing health insurance through your job.
Depending on your type of Special Enrollment Period, you may have 60 days before or 60 days after the event to review your Medicare options and select new coverage. If you miss your SEP, you may have to wait until the next Annual Enrollment Period to apply.