Medicare 101: When can I enroll in Medicare?

Your beginner’s guide to Medicare Enrollment Periods.

Medicare enrollment periods

Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

Also known as the Open Enrollment Period (OEP), Annual Enrollment begins October 15 and ends December 7 each year. This is the time of year when you can enroll in new Medicare plans, make changes to your current Medicare elections, or cancel your plans. Any changes you make during Annual Enrollment will officially start January 1 the following year.

If you like your current plan and don’t need to make any changes, then you don’t have to do anything. You will be re-enrolled in your plan automatically.

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is the time period when you first become eligible for Medicare.

Your Initial Enrollment Period lasts seven months. It starts three months before the month of your 65th birthday and ends three months after that same month. So, for example, if your birthday is on September 15, your Initial Enrollment Period goes from June 1 to December 31.

Now here’s where it gets a little tricky. If your birthday falls on the first day of the month, then Medicare counts the previous month as your month of birth. In other words, if your birthday falls on September 1, your Initial Enrollment Period starts May 1 and ends November 30.

General Enrollment Period (GEP)

If for some reason you miss your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), you can enroll in Medicare policies during what’s called the General Enrollment Period or GEP. GEP runs from January 1 to March 31 each year. Keep in mind, however, that if you miss your IEP and need to sign up during GEP, you may have to pay a late fee.

Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs)

Under certain circumstances, you can enroll in Medicare plans or make changes to your existing plan at a time other than the above-mentioned enrollment periods. For example, if you’ve moved out of your current plan’s area of coverage. This is what’s known as a Special Enrollment Period or SEP.

See this list of special circumstances that qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.


Your Medicare enrollment checklist

Enrolling for your first time? You may be wondering what all you need to do. Lucky for you, we’ve put together this easy-to-follow checklist. Remember: if you have questions or need extra help, you can always call 833-716-0673 to speak with a licensed Medicare agent.

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