There are several times to enroll in Medicare, and each of those times has its own rules around applying and when coverage will begin. Understanding when to enroll is an important part of your Medicare journey.

Initial Enrollment Period

The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is the first time to sign up for Medicare and join Parts A, B, C, and D. It happens:

  • 3 months before your 65th birthday,
  • Your birthday month, and
  • 3 months after your 65th birthday.

When is My 7-Month Initial Enrollment Period?

Coverage will start no sooner than the month of your 65th birthday month, but you can enroll three months before your birthday. 

Example: If your birthday is in July, your Initial Enrollment Period begins April 1 and ends October 31.

If you miss your enrollment period, you will have another chance to enroll but waiting could result in late penalties and a period without health coverage. Learn more about penalties for late enrollment.

Special Enrollment Period

There are Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs) that apply when eligible for delayed enrollment in Medicare Parts A, B, C, & D. These SEPs are only available for certain circumstances. Learn more about Medicare Special Enrollment Periods.

When is My Special Enrollment Period?

General Enrollment Period

If you miss the Initial Enrollment Period or Special Enrollment Period, there is another chance to enroll.

Sign up for Medicare Parts A & B can also happen between January 1 and March 31 each year. Medicare coverage would begin on July 1 of the same year.

It is important to note that if Part A is needed during this time, enrollment in Part B is required as well.

When is the General Enrollment Period?

Open Enrollment Period

The Open Enrollment Period – sometimes called the Annual Election Period or Annual Coordinated Enrollment Period – runs each year from October 15 to December 7. During this time:

  • Anyone with Medicare Parts A & B can switch to a Part C (Medicare Advantage) plan.
  • Anyone with Medicare Part C/Medicare Advantage can switch back to Parts A & B.
  • Anyone who has or is signing up for Medicare Parts A or B can join, drop, or switch a Part D prescription drug plan.
  • Anyone with Medicare Part C/Medicare Advantage can switch to a new Part C plan.

Coverage will start on January 1 of the following year.

When is the Open Enrollment Period?

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period provides additional opportunities to change Medicare Advantage plans outside of the Annual Election Period (October 15 – December 7). Learn more about the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period.

When is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?

Medigap Open Enrollment Period

It’s recommended you buy a Medigap policy during the 6-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period, because during this time, any Medigap policy sold in state can be purchased, even with health problems. This period automatically starts your 65th birthday month and also enrolled in Medicare Part B. Learn more about Medigap.