There are certain times each year when you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan. It is usually best to enroll in a plan by calling 1-800-MEDICARE, rather than by calling the new plan. To join an MA Plan, you must be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. You can typically enroll in Medicare Advantage during the following periods:
- Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): Seven-month period, including the three months before, the month of, and the three months after the month you first become eligible for Medicare (either your 65th birth month or the 25th month you have collected disability benefits).
- Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP): You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan for the first time during this period. The ICEP for Medicare Advantage begins three months before you are enrolled in both Parts A and B and ends either the last day of the month before you are enrolled in both Parts A and B or the last day of your Part B Initial Enrollment Period, whichever is later. For many people, the IEP and the ICEP are the same time period, but if you delay enrollment and enroll in Medicare during an SEP or the GEP, they can be different.
- Part B Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for losing job-based insurance: SEPs are periods of time outside normal enrollment periods to enroll in health insurance. This Part B SEP lets you delay enrollment in Part B without penalty if you are covered by job-based insurance when you first become eligible for Medicare. You can enroll in Medicare without penalty for up to eight months after you lose job-based coverage. Your ICEP begins after you have signed up for Part A and B using this SEP.
- Part B SEPs for exceptional circumstances: There are SEPs for less common situations, such as if you live in an area impacted by a natural disaster or emergency situation. Your ICEP begins after you have signed up for Part A and Part B using the SEP.
- General Enrollment Period (GEP): The January 1 through March 31 period each year when you can sign up for Medicare if you did not sign up for it when you originally became eligible. You have two months to enroll in an MA Plan after you have signed up for Part A and B coverage. You should sign up for a plan during the same month that you sign up for Parts A and B. Your MA Plan coverage begins the first of the month after the month you enroll.
- Fall Open Enrollment Period: The October 15 through December 7 period each year when you can change your Medicare coverage. You can pick a new MA Plan, or switch between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage. You can also change your stand-alone prescription drug coverage (Part D) during this time.
- Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP): The January 1 through March 31 period each year when you can switch from your Medicare Advantage Plan (excluding Medical Savings Accounts, cost plans, and PACE) to another Medicare Advantage Plan, or to Original Medicare with or without a Part D plan. You can only use this enrollment period if you have a Medicare Advantage Plan.