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Medicare Enrollment Periods

When can I sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B?

You will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B if you are receiving benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board when you become eligible for Medicare. There are certain times when you can enroll if you are not yet receiving benefits or if you have declined Medicare Parts A or B:


When you turn 65, you have a seven-month Initial Period (IEP), which includes the three months before, three months after, and three months after your 65th birthday. When you enroll in Medicare depends on when you turn 65. If you want Medicare Parts A and B as soon as you turn 65, you should enroll in Medicare within the first three months after you turn 65. Those with birthdays on the first of the month will have their IEP based on the seven months surrounding the month before their birthday.


If you declined Medicare Part B or delayed enrolling in it because you were covered by insurance through the current employment of yourself or your spouse, you may be able to use the Part B Special Enrollment Period (SEP). To use the Part B SEP, you must meet two criteria: (1) You must have insurance from your current job (from your job or your spouse’s job, or, in some cases, certain family members' job) or have had such insurance within the past eight months. (2) You must have been continuously covered by job-based insurance or Medicare Part B since becoming eligible for Medicare, including the first month you were eligible for Medicare. If you choose the SEP, your coverage will usually become effective the month following the month when you enroll.


You will likely have to enroll during the General Enrollment Period (GEP) if you missed the enrollment period during your IEP or you are unable to enroll using the SEP. You can enroll in Medicare Part B during the GEP period, which takes place from January 1 through March 31 of every year. Enrolling during the GEP will begin your Medicare coverage on July 1. Until then, you will not be covered by Medicare. For every 12-month delay in enrolling in Medicare during the GEP, you will have to pay a penalty of 10% of the Part B premium.

Medicare Enrollment Periods When can I make changes to my Medicare health and/or drug coverage?

During Fall Open Enrollment, you can join a new Medicare Advantage Plan or separate Part D plan, or switch to Original Medicare, with or without a Part D plan, or enroll in a stand-alone Part D plan. In Fall Open Enrollment, you can make as many changes as you want, and your last change will take effect on January 1.

Each year, Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment (MA OEP) takes place between January 1 and March 31. If you wish, you may switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan (excluding Medical Savings Accounts, cost plans, and PACE) to another Medicare Advantage Plan or Original Medicare (with or without prescription drug coverage). If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, you are eligible for this enrollment period.

Special Enrollment Period for Extra Help: If you qualify for Extra Help, the federal program to help cover Medicare prescription drug costs, you have the option of enrolling in a Part D plan or switching plans during the SEP. For the first three quarters of the year (January-March, April-June, and July-September), this SEP is available once per calendar quarter. Changing your coverage through the Extra Help SEP becomes effective the first of the month following the month you make the change.

Special Enrollment Periods: There are several circumstances in which you may be able to make changes to your Medicare health/drug coverage if you move outside of your plan’s service area or if you enroll in certain State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (SPAPs). If you need to make changes to your coverage but do not know whether you qualify for an SEP, call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to learn more. If you do not know how to contact your SHIP, call 877-839-2675 or visit

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