Over 26 million Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan (Medicare Part C).1 But how and when can you enroll in a Part C plan?
The following chart illustrates the different Medicare enrollment periods when you can sign up for Medicare Advantage.
Initial Enrollment Period
Starts 3 months before the month you turn 65
- Sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan
Fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage plans (aka Annual Enrollment Period, or AEP)
Starts October 15
- Sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
Starts January 1
- Switch Medicare Advantage plans
Special Enrollment Period
Depends on your personal situation
- Depends on your personal situation
Medicare requires that you enroll, disenroll or make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan only during pre-determined enrollment periods.
You can call to speak with a licensed insurance agent who can help determine your eligibility and help you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan if you're eligible.
Once you find a Medicare Advantage plan you wish to enroll in, you may be able to apply online or over the phone.
When you apply for coverage, you must provide your Medicare number and the dates that your Medicare Part A and Part B coverage began. These dates are listed on your Medicare card.
Find your personal situation below to determine when you can enroll in, leave or make changes to a Medicare Advantage plan.
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Each person who becomes eligible for Medicare will be granted an Initial Enrollment Period where they may enroll in Medicare for the very first time.
Your Medicare IEP will begin three months before you turn 65 years old, include the month of your birthday and continue on for three additional months for a total of seven months.
Example: You turn 65 on June 5. Your Initial Enrollment Period starts on March 1 (3 full months before June) and ends September 30 (3 full months after June).
If you become eligible for Medicare before 65 due to a qualifying disability, you may be able to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan after you have been getting Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits for 21 full months.
After that point, you have 7 full months to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan. Your coverage will begin on your 25th month of receiving disability benefits.
If you have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), you are eligible for Medicare the first month you receive your disability benefits.
If you have End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. You may also be able to enroll in a Medicare Special Needs Plan (SNP) that is designed to help meet your specific health care needs, if a Medicare SNP is available where you live.
The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is also sometimes called the Fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans.
Medicare AEP occurs every year from October 15 to December 7. During this time, those who are already enrolled in Original Medicare can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.
During AEP, you may also switch Medicare Advantage plans or drop your plan entirely to return to Original Medicare.
Depending on your circumstances, you may potentially qualify for a Medicare Special Enrollment Period (SEP).
Special Enrollment Periods do not have a scheduled beginning or ending date. These periods may be granted at any time throughout the year to beneficiaries who experience qualifying events such as :
Call to speak with a licensed insurance agent who can help determine if you are eligible for a Special Enrollment Period.
Before you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you must enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B.
Once you are enrolled in Part A and Part B, you can call to speak with a licensed insurance agent who can help you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, if you're eligible.
You can also compare Medicare Advantage plans online and enroll in a plan online if you're eligible.
If you need to sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B, you can do so in one of four ways:
Also known as Medicare Part C, Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance companies and serve as an alternative way to receive your Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) benefits.
Medicare Advantage plans are required to provide at least the same benefits as Original Medicare, and many plans may offer additional benefits.
Some of the potential benefits offered by a Medicare Advantage plan can include coverage for:
The availability of Medicare Advantage plans in your area will vary and is subject to how many insurance companies offer plans where you live. There are five primary types of Medicare Advantage plans that are the most prevalent, and the availability of each type of plan will also vary based on your location.
The major types of Medicare Advantage plans include:
When comparing Medicare Advantage plans, it’s important to consider the type of plan you want, the benefits offered and the availability of plans where you live.
The premiums, deductibles, copays and coinsurance costs for Medicare Advantage plans may vary from one plan to the next.
Several factors can affect your Medicare Advantage plan costs, such as:
It can be helpful to compare plans online or to call and speak with a licensed insurance agent who can help you compare plans. You'll be able to learn about all of the costs associated with each available plan, and you can make a decision that works best for your budget.
Medicare Advantage plans can be administered on state and local levels.
Learn more about Medicare Advantage plan costs and availability in your state.
Call to speak with a licensed insurance agent today to discuss your eligibility and find out how to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan that’s right for your needs.
1 Freed M. et al. (Nov. 2, 2021). Medicare Advantage 2022 Spotlight: First Look. Kaiser Family Foundation. www.kff.org/issue-brief/medicare-advantage-2022-spotlight-first-look.
Christian Worstell is a senior Medicare and health insurance writer with MedicareAdvantage.com. He is also a licensed health insurance agent. Christian is well-known in the insurance industry for the thousands of educational articles he’s written, helping Americans better understand their health insurance and Medicare coverage.
Christian’s work as a Medicare expert has appeared in several top-tier and trade news outlets including Forbes, MarketWatch, WebMD and Yahoo! Finance.
Christian has written hundreds of articles for MedicareAvantage.com that teach Medicare beneficiaries the best practices for navigating Medicare. His articles are read by thousands of older Americans each month. By better understanding their health care coverage, readers may hopefully learn how to limit their out-of-pocket Medicare spending and access quality medical care.
Christian’s passion for his role stems from his desire to make a difference in the senior community. He strongly believes that the more beneficiaries know about their Medicare coverage, the better their overall health and wellness is as a result.
A current resident of Raleigh, Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
If you’re a member of the media looking to connect with Christian, please don’t hesitate to email our public relations team at Mike@tzhealthmedia.com.