We cover everything you need to know about open enrollment in Medicare and the different open enrollment and special enrollment periods.

When Is Medicare Open Enrollment?

Medicare open enrollment lasts from October 15 to December 7 each year. Your coverage will start on January 1 of the new year. If you are already enrolled in Medicare, this is the time of the year you can change your plan. If you are signing up to buy Part A or Part B, you can only do it during Medicare’s open enrollment.

What is Medicare Open Enrollment?

Open enrollment is the time of year during which you can pick a new Medicare Advantage plan or switch from Medicare Advantage to original Medicare. Be sure to review your options with a reputable insurance agent, phone Medicare, or use the Medicare.gov Plan Finder. Your health or your pharmaceutical needs might have changed from one year to the next. Drug formularies may change, or you may find it important to have a specific physician be in-network.

If you have a concerning medical condition such as cancer or a chronic medical issue, you will want to think especially carefully about the plan you choose. Exploring your options can save you money.

Tip: Look at your needs every year and compare Medicare plans. You can call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 or speak to a reputable health insurance agent. As with any other form of insurance, the cost you can pay may be a consideration.

Open enrollment for Medicare is not the same as open enrollment for the health insurance marketplaces (or exchanges) under the ACA.

Fact: Depending on your age and health circumstance a person can use either the Health Exchange Marketplace or Medicare. You cannot use both for the same person. A family may have members in several different plans or several people in the same family may have to enroll separately in Medicare since Medicare covers only the one individual who is enrolled.

Special Enrollment Periods

Turning 65 gives you a special enrollment period. So does losing a group health plan through your employer or union while you are eligible for Medicare. You are also eligible for Medicare coverage is Social Security has determined you to have been disabled for two years, if you have end-stage renal disease, or ALS. There are a few other uncommon circumstances that might give you a special enrollment date so be sure to check with Medicare.gov.

Note: Ending insurance under COBRA or a retiree plan will not give you a special enrollment period.

You are eligible to enroll in Medicare for the first time 3 months before you turn 65, during the month you turn 65, and for the 3 months after you turn 65. If you want to sign up for Part B, your coverage could be delayed in you wait until you turn 65 so it is best to enroll during the 3-month period before your birthday.