When Can I Sign Up for Medicare?

With Medicare, timing is key. If you already get a Social Security or Railroad check for retirement, you'll automatically be enrolled you in Original Medicare. You don’t need to apply. If you're automatically enrolled, you'll get your Medicare card in the mail 3 months before your 65th birthday.

Otherwise, there are certain periods when you can sign up for Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Supplement plans.


Initial Enrollment Period

Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is the 7-month period you have when you first become eligible to sign up for Medicare. It includes the 3 months before the month of your birthday, your birth month, and the 3 months after the month of your birthday.

During this time, you can sign up for Medicare Part A, Part B, Medicare Advantage, and Part D.

If you sign up before your birth month, your coverage starts the first day of your birth month. If you sign up after the start of your birth month, your coverage starts the first day of the next month.

General Enrollment Period

If you didn't sign up for Original Medicare or Medicare Supplement when you're first eligible, you can sign up during the General Enrollment Period, between January 1 and March 31 each year.

If you enroll during this time, your coverage will start July 1. You may have to pay a higher premium for late enrollment in Part A and Part B.

Annual Enrollment Period

The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is each year from October 15 to December 7, and it's when you can make changes to your Medicare coverage.

At this time, you can enroll in or leave a Medicare Advantage plan, you can switch Medicare Advantage companies or plans, and you can add a Part D plan.

You must make changes during this period or you won't be able to get coverage unless you have a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

Any new coverage you get during this time will start on January 1.

Medicare Supplement Enrollment Period

The Medicare Supplement Enrollment Period, also called the Medigap Open Enrollment Period, is the 6 months, starting the first day of the month you turn 65 and are enrolled in Medicare Part B, when you can sign up for Medicare Supplement.

During this time, a company can't refuse to sell you one of their supplement plans, charge you a higher premium, or delay your coverage starting.

When Are My Enrollment Periods?

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Initial Enrollment Period? March 1September 30
The 7-month period you have when you first become eligible to sign up for Medicare.

Medicare Supplement Enrollment Period June 1November 30
The 6-month period starting the first day of the month you turn 65 and are enrolled in Part B.

General Enrollment Period January 1 – March 31
The yearly period when you can sign up for Original Medicare and Medicare Supplement.

Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) October 15 – December 7
The yearly period when you can make changes to your Medicare plan.

Special Enrollment Periods

Outside the Annual Enrollment Period, you can only enroll in a plan after a special event with a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

These are the different kinds of SEPs. Choose yours to see when you could enroll in a plan.

You can switch to a new Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, or if you move outside your Medicare Advantage plan's service area, you can also return to Original Medicare.

If you tell your plan before you move, your SEP begins the month before the month you move and goes for 2 full months after you move.

If you tell your plan after you move, your SEP begins the month you tell your plan, plus 2 more full months.

You can join a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan.

Your SEP lasts for 2 full months after the month you move back.

You can join or switch Medicare Advantage or Part D plans, drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare, or drop your Part D plan.

Your SEP lasts for as long as you live in the instiution and for 2 full months after you leave the institution.

You can join or switch Medicare Advantage or Part D plans, drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare, or drop your Part D plan.

Your SEP lasts for 2 full months after the month you're released.

You can join, switch, or drop a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan.

You can do this at any time.

You can join a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan.

Your SEP lasts for 2 full months after the month you find out you’re no longer eligible for Medicaid.

You can join, switch, or drop a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan.

You can do this at any time.

You can join or switch Medicare Advantage or Part D plans, drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare, or drop your Part D plan.

Your SEP is between January 1 and March 31.

You can drop your current coverage to enroll in this private plan.

Your SEP is whenever your employer or union allows you to make changes in your plan.

You can join a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan.

Your SEP lasts for 2 full months after the month your coverage ends.

You can drop your current Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage or your Part D plan.

You can do this at any time.

You can join a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage or a Part D plan.

Your SEP lasts for 2 full months after the month you lose creditable coverage or are notified of the loss of creditable coverage, whichever is later.

You can join a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage or a Part D plan.

Your SEP lasts for 2 full months after the month you get a notice from Medicare about the error.

You can join a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage or a Part D plan.

Your SEP lasts for 2 full months after the month you get a notice from Medicare about the error.

You can join a Part D plan.

Your SEP lasts for 2 full months after the month you drop your Medicare Cost Plan.

You can drop your current Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage or your Part D plan.

You can do this at any time.

You can join a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan.

Your SEP lasts for 2 full months after the month you drop your PACE plan.

You can join a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage or a Part D plan.

You can do this once during the calendar year.

You can join a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage or a Part D plan.

Your SEP starts either the month you lose eligibility or are notified of the loss, whichever is earlier, and ends 2 months after either the month of the loss of eligibility or notification of the loss, whichever is later.

You can drop your Medicare Advantage plan and enroll in Original Medicare with special rights to buy a Supplement plan.

You can drop your Medicare Advantage plan for 12 months after you join it for the first time.

You can join a Medicare Chronic Care SNP for people with your condition.

You can join any time, but you can't make changes using this SEP once you've joined.

You can join a Medicare Advantage, Medicare Cost, or Part D plan with an overall quality rating of 5 stars.

You can do this one time between December 8 and November 30.

Medicare evaluates plans based on a 5-Star Rating System. Star Ratings are calculated each year and may change from one year to the next.

You can switch from your Medicare Advantage or Part D plan to another plan.

Your SEP is determined by Medicare on a case‐by‐case basis.

You can switch from your Medicare Advantage or Part D plan to another plan.

Your SEP starts 2 months before and ends 1 full month after the contract ends.

You can switch from your Medicare Advantage or Part D plan to another plan.

You can do this between October 15 and the last day in February.

You can join or switch Medicare Advantage or Part D plans, drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare, or drop your Part D plan.

Your SEP lasts for 2 full months after the month you get a notice from Medicare about the error.

You can sign up a Part D plan.

You can do this between April 1 and June 30.


Do I Need to Sign Up for Medicare Part A and Part B?

You'll need to sign up for Part A and Part B if you:

  • Aren't getting Social Security or Railroad benefits, for example, because you're still working. (What if I'm still working?)
  • Get Medicare because you have end-stage renal disease (permanent kidney failure).

How Can I Sign Up for Part A and Part B?


Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period

From January 1 to February 14, during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period, you can leave your Medicare Advantage plan and switch back to Original Medicare. You cannot:

  • Join a Medicare Advantage plan from Original Medicare
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • Switch from one Part D plan to another

If you switch back to Original Medicare at this time, you'll also have until February 14 to join a Part D plan to add drug coverage. That coverage will start the first day of the month after the Part D plan gets your enrollment.