Medicare Enrollment Periods: When can you sign up for Medicare?

Your first chance to sign up for Original Medicare coverage (Parts A & B) will be around your 65th birthday. When you sign up for Original Medicare, you are enrolling in basic hospital insurance and medical health coverage only.

After you enroll in Original Medicare, you can apply for optional Medicare health and drug coverage. Plans that provide this health insurance coverage are called Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Part D). Your first chance to sign up for these plans also is around your 65th birthday.

If you do not enroll in a Medicare plan around your 65th birthday, there are also designated periods when you can enroll each year.

A period when you can sign up for a Medicare plan is called an "enrollment period."

Note: if you do not enroll in Medicare Part B when you first become eligible but decide to enroll in Part B later in life, you will have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you remain enrolled in Part B.

Signing up for Medicare hospital & medical coverage (Parts A & B)

You may be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B when you turn 65. Some beneficiaries may be automatically enrolled based on a condition (such as End-Stage Renal Disease or ALS) or if they receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration or the Railroad Retirement Board.

If you are not enrolled automatically, you can sign up during any of the 3 enrollment periods (sometimes called election periods) outlined in the following chart.

Original Medicare Enrollment Periods
Enrollment period Dates
Initial Enrollment Period Starts 3 months before the month you turn 65
Ends 3 months after the month you turn 65
Medicare General Enrollment Period Starts January 1 each year
Ends March 31 each year
Special Enrollment Period Depends on your personal situation (such as if you move or lose your insurance coverage)

More info: Original Medicare eligibility and enrollment

Signing up for optional Medicare health & drug coverage (Parts C & D)

You will not be enrolled in Part C or a Part D prescription drug plan automatically; you must apply during an enrollment period.

The following table shows when you can apply for or make changes to your Medicare Part C or Part D plans.

Medicare Part C & D Enrollment Periods
Enrollment period Dates Actions you can take during this period
Initial Enrollment Period Starts 3 months before the month you turn 65
Ends 3 months after the month you turn 65
- Sign up for a plan
Medicare Open Enrollment Period
(aka Annual Enrollment)
Starts October 15
Ends December 7
- Sign up for a plan
- Switch plans
- Leave a plan
Special Enrollment Period Depends on your personal situation (such as if you move or lose your insurance coverage) - Depends on your personal situation (such as if you move or lose your insurance coverage)
Medicare Advantage Open enrollment Period Starts January 1
Ends March 31

- Leave a Part C plan and return to Original Medicare
- Add a Part D plan if you returned to Original Medicare
- Switch Part C plans

More info:

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TZ Insurance Solutions LLC and the licensed sales agents that may call you are not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. Government or the federal Medicare program. This website does not contain a complete listing of plans available in your service area. For a complete listing please contact 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call (877) 486-2048), 24 hours a day / 7 days a week or consult www.medicare.gov.

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Last Updated: 2/7/2018