Medicare offers several times during the year when you can make decisions about your plan
Initial Enrollment Period
Congratulations, you’re turning 65! It’s time to enroll in a Medicare plan. You have a seven-month window to decide how you want to use your benefits. This period starts three months before your 65th birthday month, and three months after the month you turn 65. During this time, you can:
- Enroll in Medicare Parts A and B
- Enroll in a stand-alone Prescription drug plan (Part D)
- Enroll in a Advantage plan, which is also know as Part C
If you don’t make these decisions you could face penalties in the form of higher premiums in the future.
Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period
If you sign up for Part A & B and you want to keep your coverage just the way it is, you should look into supplementing that coverage with a Supplement policiy which is also know as a Medigap plan. A Medigap plan will help you cover the costs which are not paid for by Original Medicare. The best time to buy a Medicare Supplement plan is during you’re Six-Month Supplement Enrollment Period that starts the first day of the month you turn 65 and you are enrolled into Part B.
If you don’t sign up for a supplement plan during this enrollment period, you may not be able to buy a supplement plan in the future unless you have a guaranteed issue rights. You will also be required to answer medical history questions in order to qualify.
General Enrollment Period
You can sign up for Part A and/or Part B between January 1 and March 31 each year if both of these conditions apply:
- You didn’t sign up when you were first eligible.
- You aren’t eligible for a Special Enrollment Period (see below).
Your coverage will start July 1. And you may be subject to penalties.
Annual Enrollment Period
Every year form October 15 to December 7 you can make certain changes to your coverage.
- If you’re in Original Medicare, you can switch to a Medicare Advantage plan — or vice versa.
- You can switch from a Advantage plan with drug coverage to one without — or vice versa.
- You can join or drop a Prescription drug plan.
- You can also update your coverage by switching to a new plan from your current insurer or switching to a new insurer.
If you choose to make a change during the Annual Enrollment Period, your new coverage will begin on January 1.
Tip: If you’re happy with your current coverage, you’re not required to make a change. In most cases, your current Medicare plan will automatically renew on January 1.
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
This period takes place from January 1 through March 31 annually. It allows individuals enrolled in a Advantage plan to make a one-time election to go to either another Advantage plan or go back to Original Medicare.
In either case, your new coverage will start on the first day of the month following the month you make a change.
Tip: If you go back to Original Medicare, you can also add a Medicare Supplement plan. You might have to answer medical questions and qualify for the Supplement plan.
Special Enrollment Period
In situations like the ones below, you may be able to join, switch or drop a Advantage or prescription drug plan outside the basic enrollment periods.
Moving out of your plan’s service area
- If you tell your plan before you move: You can switch starting the month before you move and two months after you move.
- If you tell your plan after you move: You can switch from the moment you notify your plan through the next two months.
- Losing your current health care or prescription drug coverage
For example, you may lose your current coverage when you leave your job. You have two months after you lose your coverage to sign up for a new plan. Your coverage will begin the first day of the month after you sign up.
5 Star Plans
Medicare uses information from member satisfaction surveys, plans, and health care providers to give overall performance star ratings to plans.
A plan can get a rating between 1 and 5 stars. A 5-star rating is considered excellent. These ratings help you compare plans based on quality and performance. Medicare updates these ratings each fall for the following year. These ratings can change each year.
You can switch to a 5-star Advantage Plan, Medicare Cost Plan, or Prescription Drug Plan once between December 8 and November 30. Drug Plan if one is available in your area.