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.
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?
Initial Enrollment Period March 1 – September 30
The 7-month period you have when you first become eligible to sign up for Medicare.
Medicare Supplement Enrollment Period June 1 – November 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.
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?
- Apply online through Social Security's website
- Visit your local Social Security office.
- Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213, TTY 1-800-325-0778.
- Fill out the Application for Enrollment in Part B. Remember, you must already have Part A to apply for 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.