When To Enroll In Medicare Advantage. The Ins and Outs of Enrollment Periods.

In order to sign up for a Medicare Advantage, you must be enrolled in Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B). Learn when you can enroll in Original Medicare.

The timeframe for enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan is called an enrollment period. You have three enrollment periods during which you can choose or switch plans in each calendar year.

Initial Enrollment Period (New to Medicare)

When you first become eligible for Medicare, you can join a plan. This enrollment period starts 3 months before you get Medicare and ends 3 months after you get Medicare.

If you request to join a plan before your Medicare starts: Your plan coverage starts the same day as when your Medicare starts.

If you request to join a plan after your Medicare starts: Your plan coverage starts the first of the month after the plan gets your request.

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

While the name seems to indicate you can sign up for Medicare during this period, the Annual Enrollment Period is a time for beneficiaries to make changes to their current coverage. Someone may want to change their coverage because their needs change or because their current plan increases costs or changes benefits offered.  During the period from October 15 to December 7, you can:

  • Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare or vice versa
  • Change to a different Medicare Advantage plan
  • Change your Part D prescription plan
  • Enroll in or drop a Part D plan

The Medicare Advantage plan you choose will be effective January 1. If you do not wish to change your current plan, your existing coverage will continue into the next year without any need to inform Medicare.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP)

If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can make changes during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, which runs from January 1 to March 31 of each year.

During this period, you can:

  • Switch to another Medicare Advantage plan, with or without drug coverage
  • Drop a Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare, including adding Medicare Part D benefits

During this period, you cannot:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Join or switch from one drug plan to another drug plan if you’re in Original Medicare

If you do not wish to change your current plan, your existing coverage will continue into the next year without any need to inform Medicare.

Special Enrollment Period (SEP)

Some beneficiaries qualify to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during a Special Enrollment Period. There are no set dates for a Special Enrollment Period. Instead, dates will vary based on your circumstances. There are two kinds of Medicare Special Enrollment Periods, allowing you to sign up or switch plans outside the standard enrollment periods. These are:

  • SEP for Qualifying Life Events
  • SEP for Working Past 65

For beneficiaries who have Original Medicare but experience a qualifying life event, there is a 2-month window for switching to a  Medicare Advantage or Part D drug plan. Some of the qualifying life events include:

  • You move to a new address outside your plan’s service area
  • You change jobs
  • You or your spouse loses your current health insurance coverage
  • You qualify for extra help from the government
  • You become eligible for Medicaid
  • Your current plan changes its contract with Medicare

Want to learn more about enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan with Elderplan? Our Benefits Advisors can help.