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When Can I Enroll in Medicare Advantage Plan?

In this article:    

What is Medicare Advantage?Jump to
Initial Enrollment PeriodJump to
Annual Enrollment PeriodJump to
Special Enrollment PeriodJump to
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment PeriodJump to

What is Medicare Advantage?

If you’re new to Medicare or someone who has had Medicare for years, chances are you’ve heard of Medicare Advantage.

Sometimes called Medicare Part C, Medicare Advantage Plans are private insurance plans that combine your Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance) into one plan. Plus, Medicare Advantage Plans often come with additional coverage, which isn’t typically included with Original Medicare, such as dental, vision, fitness memberships and prescription drug coverage.

However, Medicare enrollees can’t sign up for Medicare Advantage on a whim. There are specific periods throughout the year or periods triggered by life events that allow you to enroll in or switch to a Medicare Advantage Plan.

Below is an overview of when you can enroll in Medicare Advantage.

Initial Enrollment Period

If you’re approaching age 65 and wish to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan, your first opportunity to do so will be during your Initial Enrollment Period.

The Medicare Initial Enrollment Period lasts for seven months, starting three months before you turn age 65 and ends three months after your 65ths birthday month.

If you want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan as soon as you’re eligible for Medicare, first, you need to enroll in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). You can sign up for Original Medicare online, over the phone, or in-person at a Social Security Administration office. Click here to learn more about applying for Medicare.

Your coverage start date will depend on when your plan gets your request. If you request to join a plan before your Medicare starts, your coverage will begin the same day as your Original Medicare coverage. If you request to join a plan after your Medicare starts, your coverage starts the first month after the plan gets your request.

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Annual Enrollment Period

If you already have Original Medicare and want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan outside of your IEP, the Annual Enrollment Period may be your next best opportunity.

This period is often called the Medicare Open Enrollment Period; however, we refer to this window as the Annual Enrollment or Election Period (AEP). During this time between Oct. 15 – Dec. 7 each year, Medicare enrollees can join, drop or switch plans.

Once you choose a new plan, your coverage will begin Jan. 1 the following year.

Special Enrollment Period

Depending on specific life events, you may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) that allows you to switch to a Medicare Advantage Plan. These life events vary, such as

  • Moving to a new address
  • Losing or having to change your current coverage
  • Qualifying for Medicaid

For a complete list of qualifying life events that trigger a Special Enrollment Period, you can go to the Medicare website.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

After you’re already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan, there is an exclusive enrollment period if you want to make a change outside of AEP and don’t qualify for a SEP. The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period happens annually from Jan. 1 to March 31.

During this time, Medicare Advantage enrollees can switch to another Medicare Advantage Plan or drop their plan and revert to Original Medicare. You can only make one change during this period. If you do switch plans, your new coverage will start on the first day of the next month following your new plan getting your request.

Compare Medicare Advantage Plans Online

If you’ve determined you’re currently in a Medicare Advantage enrollment period, then it’s a great idea to start comparing Medicare Advantage Plans in your area. You can compare 4 and 5 Star plans from some of the nation’s top-rated insurance carriers right here on

Click here to compare Medicare Advantage Plans in your area.

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Denise Austin, 65, Ensurem Ambassador

Best-Selling Author, Creator of Fit Over 50 Magazine

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