Eligibility and timing

Depending on your circumstances, there are different time periods that you can enroll in Medicare. Learn about them below.

Initial enrollment period

You can enroll in Medicare during your initial enrollment period, which is three months before your 65th birthday, your birthday month and three months after. If you are under age 65, you may be able to enroll if you have a qualifying event. It’s important that you know that there may be penalties if you do not enroll. If you decide to delay enrollment, you may have to pay a lifetime late enrollment penalty.

Special enrollment period

If you have a qualifying event, you may qualify for special enrollment. You can use special enrollment to enroll in Medicare or make changes to your existing Medicare coverage. Qualifying events can include:

  • Change of address to a different service area
  • Losing current insurance or drug coverage
  • Anytime you have a chance to get coverage from an employer, union or program
  • If Medicare changes its contract with your plan, making coverage unavailable

There are other qualifying events. To learn more, visit medicare.gov.

Annual enrollment periods

If you are already enrolled in Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage or a stand-alone prescription drug plan; you can make changes to your coverage during the annual enrollment period. Annual enrollment is Oct. 15 — Dec. 7 every year. During annual enrollment:

Original Medicare members can

  • Change to a Medicare Advantage plan

Medicare Advantage members can

  • Change Medicare Advantage plans
  • Return to Original Medicare

Open enrollment period

If you are already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can make changes to your coverage from Jan. 1 to March 31 every year. Medicare Advantage members can:

  • Change Medicare Advantage plans
  • Return to Original Medicare

General enrollment period

If you did not enroll during these other periods, you can enroll in Part A and/or Part B from Jan. 1 to March 31.

Learn how to enroll

See our Medicare Advantage plans

Last updated Nov. 5, 2018
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