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When to Enroll in Medicare

Timing matters when you’re signing up for Medicare.

Medicare enrollment windows open when you turn 65 or otherwise become eligible. It’s important to take action. You may have fewer choices and may pay more if you wait.

Your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is your first window for signing up. The exact dates of your IEP depend on your date of birth, or on the date you began receiving disability benefits.

Your IEP lasts a total of seven months. It includes:

  • The 3 months before the month you turn 65, or before the month you get your 25th disability check
  • Your 65th birthday month, or the month you get your 25th disability check
  • The 3 months after your 65th birthday month, or after the month you get your 25th disability check

For example, the IEP for someone born August 3, 1950 is May 1, 2015 through November 30, 2015.

The rules are slightly different for people born on the first of the month. Their IEPs occur a month earlier than others born the same month and year. So the IEP for someone born August 1, 1950 is April 1, 2015 through October 31, 2015.

It’s important to take action during your IEP. You don’t have to sign up for Medicare during this time. But you do need to make some decisions.

Enrollment Timing Tool

You can get a customized picture of your IEP and other Medicare enrollment windows using the tool below. Just select your situation, enter the date requested and click “Next.” You’ll get specific enrollment dates and information about what actions you can take.

Select Your Situation
  • New to Medicare: Turning 65

  • New to Medicare:
    Over 65 and Retiring or
    Losing Employer Coverage

  • New to Medicare:
    Qualifying Disability

Enter your date of birth.

Note: This information is used only to help calculate your enrollment dates.

Enter your retirement date or the date your group health coverage ends (whichever happens first).

Note: This information is used only to help calculate your enrollment dates.

Enter month you began receiving
disability benefits.

Note: This information is used only to help calculate your enrollment dates.



Check the box if you have the following?

  • Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS)
  • End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)
Your Medicare Enrollment Periods

You have four enrollment periods to keep on your radar when you are turning 65. Your Initial Enrollment Period, or IEP, is the most important one. If you miss it, you may have to pay more. Start your research well before your IEP starts and be ready to take action. The earlier you sign up, the more likely it is that your coverage will begin on the first day you are eligible.

Initial Enrollment Period: Turning 65 on xxx
  • Aug
    2012
  • Sept
    2012
  • Oct
    2012
  • Nov
    2012
  • Dec
    2012
    your birth month*
  • Jan
    2013
  • Feb
    2013
  • Sept
    2012
  • Oct
    2012
  • Nov
    2012
  • Dec
    2012
    your birth month*
  • Jan
    2013
  • Feb
    2013
  • Mar
    2013

Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is seven months long and includes:

  • The three months before the month of your 65th birthday.
  • The month of your 65th birthday.
  • The three months after the month of your 65th birthday.

*If your birthday is on the first of the month, then your IEP begins and ends one month earlier than others born in the same month and year. Your dates will be the same as someone born the month before you.

Here's what you can do during your IEP.

part a
part b

Enroll in Original Medicare Part A, Part B or both.

parts a b c

Choose to get your coverage through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan. You must be enrolled in both Parts A and B to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.

part c
part d

Join a Medicare Advantage plan with or without built-in prescription drug coverage (Part D).

part d

Enroll in a standalone prescription drug plan (PDP). You must have Original Medicare or enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t include drug coverage to enroll in a prescription drug plan. Only certain Medicare Advantage plans allow you to have a standalone prescription drug plan as well.


General Enrollment Period

The General Enrollment Period happens every year at the same time—January 1 through March 31. It gives you another chance to sign up for Medicare Part A, Part B or both if you didn’t enroll during your IEP. You may have to pay a penalty for late enrollment in
some situations.


Medicare Open Enrollment

You can add, switch or drop Medicare coverage every year from October 15 through December 7. This is called Medicare Open Enrollment. Here’s what you can do:

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to
    one that does.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that offers drug coverage to one that doesn’t.
  • Enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare prescription drug plan to different Medicare
    prescription drug plan.
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.

Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period

This period begins the first day of the month that you are enrolled in Medicare Part B. It lasts for six months. You must be enrolled in Original Medicare Parts A and B to enroll in a Medicare supplement insurance plan.

You cannot be denied Medicare supplement insurance if you apply during your Medicare supplement insurance OEP. If you miss it, you can still apply for coverage at any time. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you won't be able to use Medicare supplement insurance.

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Your Medicare Enrollment Periods

Retiring or losing your employer health care coverage is a special circumstance. You may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP)—possibly even more than one. Taking advantage of your SEPs can help you get the health care coverage you need while avoiding coverage gaps and enrollment penalties.

Special Enrollment Period for Parts A and B: Retiring or losing coverage in xxx
  • Feb
    2012
  • Mar
    2013
  • Apr
    2013
  • May
    2013
  • Jun
    2013
  • Jul
    2013
  • Aug
    2013
  • Sept
    2013
  • Oct
    2013

Your enrollment window for Parts A and B lasts for eight months starting the month after your coverage ends. During this time, you can:

part a
part b

Sign up for Original Medicare Part A, Part B or both, even if your Initial Enrollment Period has passed.


Special Enrollment Period for Parts C and D: Retiring or losing coverage in xxx
  • Feb
    2012
  • Mar
    2013
  • Apr
    2013

This enrollment window is much shorter than the Original Medicare SEP. It lasts for two full months after the month your coverage ends. During this SEP, you can:

part c

Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) with or without prescription drug coverage. You must be enrolled in Parts A and B to join a Part C plan.

part d

Join a standalone prescription drug plan. You must have Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t include drug coverage to enroll in a prescription drug plan. Only certain Medicare Advantage plans allow you to have a standalone prescription drug plan as well.

General Enrollment Period

The General Enrollment Period happens every year at the same time—January 1 through March 31. It gives you another chance to sign up for Medicare Part A, Part B or both if you didn’t enroll during your Initial Enrollment Period or Special Enrollment Period. You may have to pay a penalty for late enrollment in some situations.


Medicare Open Enrollment

You can add, switch or drop Medicare coverage every year from October 15 through December 7. This is called Medicare Open Enrollment. Here’s what you can do:

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to one that does.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that offers drug coverage to one that doesn’t.
  • Enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare prescription drug plan to a different Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.

Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period

This period begins the first day of the month that you are enrolled in Medicare Part B. It lasts for six months. You must be enrolled in Original Medicare Parts A and B to join a supplement insurance plan.

You cannot be denied Medicare supplement insurance if you apply during this period. If you miss your Medicare supplement insurance OEP, you can still apply for coverage at any time. But you may be denied or be charged a higher premium if your health history suggests that you may be a higher risk. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you won't be able to use Medicare supplement insurance.

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Your Medicare Enrollment Periods

You have a few possible enrollment periods to consider, depending on your circumstance. Your Initial Enrollment Period, or IEP, is the most important one. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules and deadlines for your IEP.

Initial Enrollment Period: Began receiving disability benefits in xxx
  • Sept
    2012
  • Oct
    2012
  • Nov
    2012
  • Dec
    2012
    25th month of benefits
  • Jan
    2013
  • Feb
    2013
  • Mar
    2013

Your enrollment window is seven months long. It includes:

  • The three months before your 25th month of receiving disability benefits.
  • Your 25th month of receiving disability benefits.
  • The three months after your 25th month of receiving disability benefits.

Here's what you can do during your IEP.
part a
part b

Enroll in Original Medicare Part A, Part B or both

parts a b c

Choose to get your coverage through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan. You must be enrolled in both Parts A and B to join a Medicare Advantage plan.

part c
part d
Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan with or without built-in prescription drug coverage (Part D).
part d

Enroll in a standalone prescription drug plan. You must have Original Medicare or join a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t include drug coverage to join a prescription drug plan. Only certain Medicare Advantage plans allow you to have a standalone prescription drug plan as well.


General Enrollment Period (GEP)

The General Enrollment Period happens every year at the same time—January 1 through March 31. It gives you another chance to sign up for Medicare Part A, Part B or both if you didn’t enroll during your Initial Enrollment Period. You may have to pay a penalty for late enrollment in some situations.


Special Enrollment Period

Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period. Here are some examples of circumstances that may qualify you:

  • If you’re eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, you can join, switch or drop a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare prescription drug plan any time.
  • If you have a chronic health condition for which there’s a Special Needs Plan (SNP), you can join that plan at any time. You can only use this type of SEP once.
  • If you’re enrolled in an SNP and no longer qualify for it, you can switch to a Medicare Advantage or Medicare prescription drug plan. This SEP enrollment window starts when you lose your special needs status and continues for three months after.

Medicare Open Enrollment

You can add, switch or drop Medicare coverage every year from October 15 through December 7. This is called Medicare Open Enrollment. Here’s what you can do:

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to one that does.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that offers drug coverage to one that doesn’t.
  • Join a Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare prescription drug plan to a different Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.

Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period

This period begins the first day of the month that you are enrolled in Medicare Part B. It lasts for six months. You must be enrolled in Original Medicare Parts A and B to join a supplement insurance plan.

You cannot be denied Medicare supplement insurance if you apply during this period. If you miss your Medicare supplement insurance open enrollment period, you can still apply for coverage at any time. But you may be denied or charged a higher premium if your health history suggests that you may be a higher risk. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you won't be able to use Medicare supplement insurance.

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Your Medicare Enrollment Periods

When you have ALS, you are automatically enrolled in Original Medicare Part A and Part B the month your disability benefits begin. However, you may have other coverage choices, so it’s important to understand your enrollment periods.


Initial Enrollment Period

Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) won’t apply to Original Medicare Parts A or B because you are already enrolled. However, you can choose to join a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) or Medicare Part D prescription drug plan during your IEP.

If you are younger than 65 years old, your IEP dates depend on when you started receiving disability benefits. Your IEP is seven months long and includes:

  • The three months before your 25th month of receiving disability benefits
  • Your 25th month of receiving disability benefits
  • The three months after your 25th month of receiving disability benefits

If you will turn 65 before your 25th month of receiving disability benefits, then your IEP dates depend on your birthday. Your IEP is seven months long and includes:

  • The three months before your 65th birthday month
  • The month of your 65th birthday.
  • The three months after your 65th birthday month

Here's what you can do during your IEP.
part c

Choose to get coverage through a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan.

part c
part d

Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan with or without built-in prescription drug coverage (Part D).

part d

Enroll in a standalone prescription drug plan. You must have Original Medicare Parts A and B or a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t include drug coverage to join a Part Dprescription drug plan. Only certain Medicare Advantage plans allow you to have a standalone prescription drug plan as well.


Special Enrollment Period

Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period. Here are some examples of circumstances that may qualify you:

  • If you’re eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, you can join, switch or drop a Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare prescription drug plan any time.
  • If you have a chronic health condition for which there’s a Special Needs Plan (SNP), you can join that plan any time. You can only use this type of SEP once though.
  • If you’re enrolled in an SNP and no longer qualify for it, you can switch to a Medicare Advantage or Medicare prescription drug plan. This SEP enrollment window starts when you lose your special needs status and continues for three months after.

Medicare Open Enrollment

You can add, switch or drop Medicare coverage every year from October 15 through December 7. This is called Medicare Open Enrollment. Here’s what you can do:

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to one that does.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that offers drug coverage to one that doesn’t.
  • Join a Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare prescription drug plan to a different Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.

Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period

This period begins the first day of the month that you are enrolled in Medicare Part B. It lasts for six months. You must be enrolled in Original Medicare Parts A and B to join a supplement insurance plan.

You cannot be denied Medicare supplement insurance if you apply during this period. If you miss your Medicare supplement insurance open enrollment period, you can still apply for coverage at any time. But you may be denied or charged a higher premium if your health history suggests that you may be a higher risk. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you won’t be able to use Medicare supplement insurance.


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Your Medicare Enrollment Periods

You have five main enrollment periods to keep in mind. Your Initial Enrollment Period, or IEP, is the most important one. If you miss it, you may have to pay more. A little research and planning can help make sure you get the coverage you need when you need it.


Initial Enrollment Period

When you have ESRD and are already eligible for Medicare because you’re 65, or because you’re under 65 and otherwise disabled, Medicare coverage for dialysis begins right away. You just need to:

  • File an application with your local Social Security office.
  • Meet any waiting periods that apply.
  • Sign up for Original Medicare Parts A and B, if necessary, once you’re application is approved.

If you’re under 65 and eligible for Medicare only because of ESRD, your coverage will usually start the first day of the fourth month of your dialysis treatments. For example, if you start getting your dialysis treatments in July, your Medicare coverage would start on October 1. You will need to enroll in Original Medicare Parts A and B. Your Medicare coverage will end:

  • 12 months after the month you stop dialysis treatments
  • 36 months after the month of a kidney transplant

Your Medicare coverage may be extended if you meet certain conditions. If it does end, and you are 65 or older, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.


General Enrollment Period

The General Enrollment Period happens every year at the same time—January 1 through March 31. It gives you another chance to sign up for Medicare Part A, Part B or both if you didn’t enroll during your Initial Enrollment Period. You may have to pay a penalty for late enrollment in some situations.


Special Enrollment Period

Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period. Here are some examples of circumstances that may qualify you:

  • If you’re eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, you can join, switch or drop a Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare prescription drug plan any time.
  • You can join a Special Needs Plan (SNP) designed for people with ESRD at any time. You can only use this type of SEP once.
  • If you’re enrolled in an SNP and no longer qualify for it, you can switch to a Medicare Advantage or Medicare prescription drug plan. This SEP enrollment window starts when you lose your special needs status and continues for three months after.
  • If you’re enrolled in an SNP and it stops being offered in your area, you can either switch to Original Medicare or a to a new Medicare Advantage plan at any time.

Medicare Open Enrollment

You can add, switch or drop Medicare coverage every year from October 15 through December 7. This is called Medicare Open Enrollment. Here’s what you can do:

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to one that does.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that offers drug coverage to one that doesn’t.
  • Join a Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare prescription drug plan to a different Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.

Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period

This period begins the first day of the month that you are enrolled in Medicare Part B. It lasts for six months. You must be enrolled in Original Medicare Parts A and B to join a supplement insurance plan.

You cannot be denied Medicare supplement insurance if you apply during this period. If you miss your Medicare supplement open enrollment period, you can still apply for coverage at any time. But you may be denied or charged a higher premium if your health history suggests that you may be a higher risk. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you won’t be able to use Medicare supplement insurance.


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