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Medicare enrollment periods allow you to sign up for Medicare during your initial eligibility period or during other specific time periods
When first signing up for Medicare, most people enroll automatically within their Initial Eligibility Period, which lasts for a total of seven months. It begins three months before the 65th birthday month, includes the birthday month, and lasts for three months after the birthday month. During that period, a new Medicare enrollee can elect to participate in original Medicare, taking parts A and B for hospital and medical coverage, and they can also add a Medicare Part D prescription plan at additional cost.
Another option, called Medicare Advantage (formerly Part C), is a private insurance plan often modeled as a PPO or HMO that may include Part D drug coverage at little to no monthly premium, though the enrollee must pay for Medicare Part B. These plans are available for enrollment during the Initial Eligibility Period. It’s important for beneficiaries to understand that Medicare Advantage plans are an annual contract that runs from January 1 through December 31st each year.Medicare Advantage plans offer a unique disenrollment period from January 1st through February 14th for those who mistakenly chose a plan that did not suit their needs and would like to return to Original Medicare, parts A and B. Those in this scenario may also pick a new part D plan to cover drugs, if they would like one.There is an annual Open Enrollment Period from October 15 through December 7th where all Medicare beneficiaries can enroll into, or change their Part D prescription plans or Medicare Advantage plans. Changes made during Open Enrollment will go into effect the following January 1st, and generally plan decisions are locked in for the entire year and may not be changed.There are special situations, called Special Election Periods (SEPs) where people can change their choice of a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D plan, or can enroll in a plan if they had not chosen one previously. These situations can include moving to a different state or area, losing your old plan, or receiving assistance from the state to pay for coverage. Under these special circumstances, some enrollees may change plans mid-year.