Medicare Enrollment Periods
How to enroll in Medicare Parts A and/ or B
Some people are automatically enrolled in Medicare. For example, you should be automatically enrolled in Medicare if you are already collecting Social Security retirement benefits when you turn 65, or if you have been collecting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for two years. If you are not eligible for automatic enrollment, you should sign up for Medicare during one of the following enrollment periods:
Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is the seven-month period including the three months before, the month of, and the three months following your 65th birthday month. Your Medicare starts the first of the month after you sign up, but no earlier than the first day of your 65th birthday. Note that if your birthday falls on the first of the month, your IEP shifts one month earlier.
If you miss your IEP, you may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). Call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) if you think you might be eligible for an SEP. You may be eligible for an SEP if:
- You have health coverage from current work or had this coverage within the last eight months
- You lost Medicaid
- You are in an area affected by a disaster or emergency
- You have recently been released from incarceration
- You make an enrollment mistake based on misinformation from your employer or health plan
- You experience other exceptional circumstances
If you miss your IEP and do not qualify for an SEP, you can enroll during the General Enrollment Period (GEP). The GEP is from January 1 through March 31 each year, with your coverage starting the first of the month after you sign up. Using the GEP to sign up for Medicare is not ideal, because you will likely owe a premium penalty.
Note on Part A:
If you qualify for premium-free Part A, you can enroll in it at any time without penalty. You qualify for premium-free Part A if you have 40 quarters (10 years) of work in any job where you paid Social Security taxes in the U.S. If you do not qualify for premium-free Part A, you can only enroll in premium Part A during the above enrollment periods.
Making changes to your coverage: Part D and Medicare Advantage
If you are already enrolled in Part A and/or Part B, you can make changes to how you access your Medicare coverage and your private plan at certain times of the year:
Fall Open Enrollment Period runs from October 15 through December 7. You can join a new Medicare Advantage Plan or a new stand-alone prescription drug plan. You can also return to Original Medicare from a Medicare Advantage Plan. Whatever changes you make become effective on January 1.
The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP) runs from January 1 through March 31. The changes you make become effective the first of the following month. You can switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan or return to Original Medicare (with or without a Part D plan) from a Medicare Advantage Plan. Remember that this enrollment period is only for people who already have a Medicare Advantage Plan.
Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs) are periods of time outside of normal enrollment periods, in which you can make changes to your Medicare coverage. These SEPs are usually triggered by life circumstances. Here are just a few examples of when you may qualify for an SEP:
- You move (permanently change your home address).
- You want to disenroll from your first Medicare Advantage Plan.
- You have creditable drug coverage or lose it through no fault of your own.
- You move into, reside in, or move out of a qualified institutional facility.
- You have Medicaid, a Medicare Savings Program, and/or Extra Help.
- You experience contract violations or enrollment errors.
Contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to enroll in Medicare Parts A and/or B. You can visit your local branch, call 800-772-1213, or go to www.ssa.gov.