Medicare Open Enrollment
The Medicare open enrollment period takes place every year from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, you can switch between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, join a Part D prescription drug plan or make other coverage adjustments. Medigap has its own six-month special enrollment period.
What Is Medicare Open Enrollment?
Medicare open enrollment is a seven-week period each year when you can make changes to your current coverage. It takes place from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.
The details of your Medicare plan can change each year. Costs can increase, and private companies may modify their list of in-network providers and pharmacies. Prescription drug coverage may also fluctuate.
Each year, Medicare gives you the chance to examine your current plan during open enrollment and, if necessary, switch to a new one that better suits your needs.
Changes made in open enrollment go into effect Jan. 1.
Open enrollment is different from the initial enrollment period, or the seven-month window when you first become eligible for Medicare around your 65th birthday.
It also differs from the general enrollment period, which takes place from Jan. 1 to March 31. General enrollment allows you to sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B coverage if you did not do so during your initial enrollment period.
Instead, open enrollment is an annual opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries to reevaluate their current plan benefits rather than sign up for the first time.
- Switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or vice versa.
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
- Switch from one Medicare Part D prescription drug plan to another.
- Enroll in a Part D plan for the first time.
- Drop your Part D plan completely.
If you want to switch to a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan, you must have Part A and Part B first. You must also live in the plan’s network.
Most people with end-stage renal disease cannot join a Medicare Advantage plan.
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment
There’s another chance to change Medicare Advantage plans from Jan. 1 to March 31.
Your options are more limited during this Medicare Advantage-specific open enrollment period.
You can still switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another or drop your current Part C plan and return to Original Medicare.
If you decide to return to Original Medicare, you can also join a Part D prescription drug plan during this time.
The Medicare Advantage open enrollment period isn’t meant for people who already have Original Medicare coverage.
- Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.
- Join a Part D plan if you're in Original Medicare.
- Switch from one Part D plan to another if you're enrolled in Original Medicare.
After your plan provider receives your request to join, your new coverage will begin the first day of the following month.
Medigap Open Enrollment
According to Medicare.gov, you’re more likely to get a better, more affordable Medigap policy if you sign up during a special six-month open enrollment period.
Medicare supplemental insurance policies, or Medigap, are sold by private insurance companies and help pay for costs Original Medicare doesn’t cover, including coinsurance, deductibles and copayments.
The Medigap open enrollment period begins the month you turn 65 and enroll in Medicare Part B. It lasts six months.
It’s a one-time opportunity and can’t be repeated.
During open enrollment, you can purchase any Medigap policy in your state, regardless of your current health status.
Once the six-month window closes, private insurers that administer Medigap plans can use medical underwriting to decide whether to accept your application.
In other words, you may not be able to purchase a Medigap policy later — or it might be too expensive.
However, there are some situations when you may qualify for guaranteed issue rights, or protections that prevent insurance companies from denying you a Medigap policy even after your open enrollment period ends.
This includes when a Medigap company goes out of business or commits fraud.
Frequently Asked Questions About Medicare Open Enrollment
5 Cited Research Articles
- Medicare.gov. (2020, March 1). Don’t wait: Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment ends March 31. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/blog/medicare-advantage-open-enrollment-2020
- Medicare.gov. (2019, September). Understanding Medicare Advantage & Prescription Drug Plan Enrollment Period. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/11219-Understanding-Medicare-Part-C-D.pdf
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (n.d.). Medicare Open Enrollment. Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Reach-Out/Find-tools-to-help-you-help-others/Medicare-Open-Enrollment
- Medicare.gov. (n.d.). Part A & Part B sign up periods. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/how-do-i-get-parts-a-b/part-a-part-b-sign-up-periods
- Medicare.gov. (n.d.). When can I buy a Medigap policy? Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/supplements-other-insurance/when-can-i-buy-medigap