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Medicare Eligibility: Are You Ready to Enroll?

When to Sign Up for Medicare: Know Your Enrollment Periods

June 11, 20244 min read

When to Sign Up for Medicare: Know Your Enrollment Periods

Key Takeaways

  • Even if you’re already on Medicare, you need to be aware of several enrollment periods that could impact you.

  • The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) provides the most options to make additions and changes on a yearly basis, while a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) allows similar options but only in rare circumstances specific to you.

  • The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period that begins January 1 of each year provides a variety of options depending on your current coverage.

    If you’re a Medicare beneficiary, then by definition you’ve already taken advantage of a Medicare enrollment period.

    That doesn’t mean that Medicare enrollment periods no longer apply to your life.

    Even though you already signed up for Medicare by utilizing your Initial Enrollment Period (or a different period if you didn’t enroll when first eligible), you need to know about other enrollment periods that could impact you.

Pick Medicare

What is the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)?

This period is worthy of some level of attention every year. From October 15 through December 7, the Annual Enrollment Period empowers you to:

  •  Switch from Original Medicare (Parts A and B) to a Medicare Advantage plan (or vice versa). You also can switch from one Medicare Advantage plan (also known as Part C) to another one.

  •  Enroll in a Part D drug plan, drop a drug plan or switch between plans.

Note: Changes take effect on January 1 of the following year.

What is a Special Enrollment Period (SEP)?

There’s no date you can circle annually on your calendar related to a special enrollment period; rather, things happen in your life to trigger them.

What is considered a Special Enrollment Period? Typically, a SEP opens a window to take action related to your Medicare coverage that you normally can only take during a regularly scheduled enrollment period. SEPs are triggered by things like:

  • A loss of access to an employer-sponsored group health insurance plan.

  • A change of address that impacts your coverage options.

  • Administrative issues out of your control.

Right situation

What is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?

Generally referred to as open enrollment, the annual period from January 1 through March 31 allows you to make different additions or changes depending on your coverage entering the period. Added/new coverages take effect the first day of the month following the enrollment.

  • If you’re only enrolled in Part A and don’t have access to a SEP to enroll in Part B, then January-March is your General Enrollment Period (GEP) and enables you to add Part B.

  • If you’re already in a Medicare Advantage plan, then January-March qualifies as Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP) for you. A Medicare Advantage beneficiary can switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan or can switch back to Original Medicare (paired with a new Part D drug plan if needed).

What is the Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP)?

The detailed dates related to this period aren’t nearly as important as what it represents: An Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP) represents your right to switch to Medicare Advantage from Original Medicare at the time that you initially enroll in Part B.

You must be enrolled in both Parts A and B of Original Medicare in order to switch to Medicare Advantage.

  • Your first ICEP aligns with the Initial Enrollment Period that surrounds your 65th birthday. In short, if you enroll in Original Medicare Parts A and B in conjunction with turning 65, you have the option of switching to a Medicare Advantage plan for your coverage. It becomes active the same day Original Medicare would have (usually the first day of the month you turn 65).

  • If you don’t sign up for both Parts A and B at age 65, then you will have a second ICEP (a second chance to sign up for Medicare Advantage) when you have both Parts A and B for the first time. Whatever date your Part B coverage is set to start, the three months leading up to that date becomes your ICEP. You have that time to switch from Parts A and B to Medicare Advantage, and if you take advantage, your coverage will begin on the same day that Part B would have.



  • How to Apply for Medicare Part B During Your Special Enrollment Period .

This website is operated by Derene Derricotte, LLC., a licensed health insurance company. The website and its contents are for informational and educational purposes; helping people understand Medicare in a simple way. The purpose of this website is the solicitation of insurance. Contact will be made by a licensed insurance agent/producer or insurance company. Medicare Supplement insurance plans are not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. government or the federal Medicare program. Our mission is to help every American get better health insurance and save money.
Any information we provide is limited to those plans we do offer in your area. Please contact or 1-800-MEDICARE to get information on all of your options.

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Derene Derricotte

Derene Derricotte is a dedicated and experienced licensed health insurance agent committed to helping individuals and families navigate the complexities of health insurance. With a deep understanding of the industry and a passion for client service, Derene specializes in providing personalized insurance solutions tailored to meet the unique needs of each client.

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