Each fall, Medicare open enrollment allows you to update your plan. This is not the only time when you can change your coverage, but the fall enrollment period gives you the most flexibility with which changes you can make.
Change Medicare plans
If you're signing up for Medicare for the first time, there are separate time periods for initial enrollment and general enrollment.
Medicare open enrollment
When is the 2024 Medicare open enrollment period (OEP)?
Medicare open enrollment happens every fall from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.
This is when existing Medicare enrollees can make changes to their coverage. Any changes you make during the 2023 Medicare open enrollment period will affect your 2024 Medicare plan beginning Jan. 1, 2024.
What can you do during Medicare open enrollment?
During the Medicare open enrollment period, sometimes called the Medicare annual enrollment period (AEP), you can change Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plans, including changing your coverage, switching between plan types and adding prescription drug benefits.
4 questions to ask during Medicare open enrollment
When comparing plans, ask yourself:
- What new Medicare plans are available for 2024?
Which plans are available and the cost of Medicare change each year. All enrollees should review their options every year to compare rates and make sure they're getting the best deal. If you want to keep the same coverage, your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) will tell you how your current plan is changing.
- Does your coverage match your medical needs?
If your medical situation has changed, updating your policy can help you save money. When comparing plans, look at the total cost of health care and insurance. For example, if you expect to need a lot of medical care in the coming year, a more expensive Medicare Advantage plan with better coverage can help reduce what you spend on health care.
- Do you want to change Medicare plan types?
If you're unhappy with Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage, you can switch between the two during open enrollment. Medicare Advantage plans are becoming more popular because policies often include benefits for prescription drug coverage, dental, vision, hearing aids and more.
- Do you have gaps in your prescription drug coverage?
During Medicare open enrollment, you can switch to a policy that has better coverage for the medications you need. This can include changing companies to get access to different prescription drug brands or changing plans to improve your benefits.
Medicare Advantage open enrollment
When is the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period?
Medicare Advantage open enrollment happens every year from Jan. 1 to March 31.
During this enrollment window, you can change your coverage if you're already enrolled in Medicare Advantage, but not if you're enrolled in Original Medicare. The changes you make to your Medicare plan will start on the first day of the month after the insurance company gets your request. For example, if they get your change request in mid-February, your new plan will begin on March 1.
What Medicare Advantage changes can you make?
During Medicare Advantage open enrollment, you can switch Medicare Advantage plans, or you can change to an Original Medicare policy and add a Part D prescription drug plan.
3 questions to ask during Medicare Advantage open enrollment
Fewer people use this open enrollment period at the beginning of the year, but it's still a risk-free chance for Medicare beneficiaries to change their Medicare Advantage plan. Those considering updating their coverage can ask themselves:
- Did you miss fall Medicare open enrollment?
If you missed the Medicare sign-up period, the Medicare Advantage enrollment period in early 2024 is a chance to change your coverage for the rest of the year.
- Are you getting the best deal with your current Medicare Advantage plan?
Remember that Medicare Advantage plan selections change each year. It's a good idea to review your coverage once a year to make sure you're not overpaying.
- Do you need to adjust your coverage to match your budget and medical needs?
If your health or financial circumstances have changed, adjusting your Medicare plan can help you get the coverage that works best for your situation. You can lower your insurance bills with a $0 Medicare Advantage plan. Or if you have ongoing health problems, improving your insurance coverage can help reduce your health care spending.
Medicare Supplement guaranteed issue
Does Medicare Supplement have open enrollment?
You can change your Medicare Supplement (Medigap) policy any time, but the best time to change your plan is during a "guaranteed issue" period.
Medicare Supplement plans don't have the same dedicated enrollment periods for changing coverage. However, you will get the best rates and can't be denied coverage if you change plans within 63 days of losing or ending your existing coverage, also known as a guaranteed issue period.
If you aren't protected by a guaranteed issue period, we recommend you carefully consider the potential outcomes of changing coverage.
Making changes without a guaranteed issue period
For most people, changing your Medigap plan means your application will go through the medical underwriting process. This includes reviewing your medical history and assessing risk factors. As a result, you could pay more for a policy or be denied coverage for a preexisting condition.
For example, without guaranteed issue rights, an application for Humana Medigap can be denied on the spot if you have conditions such as heart disease, dementia or uncontrolled diabetes.
Making changes with a guaranteed issue period
If you change your Medigap plan during a guaranteed issue period, the insurance company won’t consider your age or medical condition. Making changes during a guaranteed issue period means you're less likely to pay high prices, and it gives you more freedom to select the coverage you want.
What changes to Medigap can you make?
At any time, you can switch your Medigap plan or add a supplemental plan to your Original Medicare.
Keep in mind that you can't lose the Medicare Supplement plan coverage you already have since they are guaranteed renewable. However, changing or adding plans is affected by whether or not you qualify for a guaranteed issue period.
When do you qualify for a guaranteed issue period?
Some guaranteed issue periods are set at the federal level. This includes situations like moving or a plan no longer being available. Most notably, if you switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare, you may be charged a higher rate or denied coverage for a Medigap plan since you're not in a guaranteed issue period.
Federally protected guaranteed issue periods:
- You lose coverage through no fault of your own, such as if your Medicare Advantage or Medigap plan is no longer available or a supplemental plan through an employer or union is ending.
- You’re moving and your Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Select policy is not available in your new area.
- You are in the first year of enrollment and want to switch to Original Medicare with Medigap from Medicare Advantage. This is called the Trial Right period.
- You have been misled by your Medicare Advantage or Medigap plan, or the plan has not followed the rules.
State rules for changing Medigap plans
Forty-one states offer expanded guaranteed issue periods to give you more options for changing your Medigap coverage. Twelve states have annual or continuous Medigap open enrollment periods.
Medigap enrollment requirements vary greatly by state, so be sure to follow the rules for your area.
What is the Medicare special enrollment period?
If you meet the criteria for a Medicare special enrollment period (SEP), you'll be able to change your Medicare Advantage, Original Medicare or Medicare Part D plan. Qualifying situations include moving, becoming eligible for Medicaid and more.
Medicare.gov has very specific rules about special enrollment periods and what Medicare changes you can make during which qualifying event. Below are the guidelines for some of the most common special enrollment circumstances.
Special enrollment qualification
What Medicare changes you can make
|Moved to a new address with different plan options||Return to Original Medicare or change coverage with Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D|
|Changed eligibility for employer, union or COBRA coverage||Join or drop Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D|
|You’re eligible to be dual enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid||Enroll in, cancel or change Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Part D|
|You have or recover from a severe or disabling condition||Enroll in or cancel a Medicare Chronic Condition Special Needs Plan (C-SNP)|
|A 5-star Medicare plan becomes available in your area||You can join the 5-star Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plan|
|You qualify for Medicaid, a State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program (SPAP) or Medicare Extra Help||You can enroll in, cancel or change Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D several times during the year|
Medicare initial enrollment period
When is the Medicare initial enrollment period?
You can sign up for Medicare during the seven-month period around your 65th birthday.
Your initial enrollment period (IEP) begins three months prior to the month of your 65th birthday. It includes the month of your birthday, and your enrollment period ends three months after your birthday month.
If you sign up before your birthday, your Medicare coverage will start on the first of the month when you turn 65. If you sign up during your birthday month or the three months afterward, your coverage will start on the first of the month after you enroll.
It’s important to take advantage of your Medicare sign-up period when you first become eligible because you’ll avoid any late-enrollment fees. The fee is not a one-time charge. Instead, it’s recurring, and the longer you go without Medicare, the more you will pay. For example, if you delay Medicare Part B enrollment for one year, you could pay an extra $15 per month for as long as you have Medicare.
Medicare Eligibility Calculator
Calculate your initial seven month Medicare enrollment period by entering your date of birth.
Your initial enrollment period based on your age is
Note that your enrollment period may differ if you currently have a disability or have certain medical conditions.
What can you do during initial enrollment?
During your Medicare initial enrollment period, you can sign up for Medicare Parts A and B, Medicare Part C and Medicare Part D. When you turn 65, you'll also be able to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan, but the enrollment dates are slightly different.
Top 3 things to consider when signing up for Medicare
- Decide between Medicare Advantage and Original Medicare with Medigap
One of the most important steps is to decide if you want Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare with Medigap and Medicare Part D. Medicare Part C, also called Medicare Advantage, is more like traditional insurance with a single unified policy sold by an insurance company. Alternatively, you can get Original Medicare (Parts A and B) directly through the government, and you have the option to supplement with a Medigap plan to lower your out-of-pocket costs.
There are many factors to consider when deciding between these categories. For example, a Medicare Advantage plan has a network of health care providers, but Original Medicare can be used at any facility that accepts Medicare.
- Make sure you have prescription drug coverage
To make sure some of the high cost of medications is covered, choose a Medicare Advantage plan that includes coverage for prescription drugs. Or if you choose Original Medicare, it's important to add on a stand-alone prescription drug plan, called Medicare Part D.
- Request personalized quotes to find the best deal for the level of coverage you want
Medicare Advantage plans can vary from county to county, and you'll find the best deal by comparing the available plans in your location by their monthly cost, level of coverage and other preferences.
What is the Medicare general enrollment period?
From Jan. 1 to March 31 each year, those who are eligible for Medicare can sign up for the first time, but you may have a late fee if you sign up after your initial enrollment period.
The Medicare general enrollment period is for new enrollees who do not have any type of Medicare. If you want to change parts of your existing Medicare coverage, you’ll probably need to wait until Medicare open enrollment in the fall. During general enrollment, you'll have the same options as during initial enrollment — you can sign up for Medicare Part A, B, C or D. Starting in January 2024, the coverage you select will begin on the first day of the month after you sign up.
However, enrolling in Medicare after your initial enrollment period means you could pay a fee. This isn't a one-time fee. Instead, it's an increase in your monthly costs based on how long you didn't have coverage. You will pay that higher rate for as long as you have Medicare coverage. Both Medicare Parts A and B have separate late fees you must pay.
When is the Medicare special enrollment period?
You can qualify for Medicare special enrollment if you didn’t enroll in Medicare when you became eligible at age 65 because you had health insurance through your job or your spouse's job.
If you meet the qualifying circumstances, signing up for Medicare through a special enrollment period can help you avoid a Medicare Part B late fee.
There are limits and specifics when navigating between Medicare and employer health coverage, and you shouldtalk to someone at Medicare or your State Health Insurance Assistance Program to talk about what you need to qualify for a special enrollment period.
Note that special enrollment will only help you avoid the Medicare Part B late fee. There’s no way to avoid the Medicare Part A late fee.
Medicare Supplement open enrollment
When is the Medicare Supplement open enrollment period (OEP)?
Medicare Supplement (Medigap) open enrollment begins when you first get Medicare Part B and are at least age 65. It continues for six months.
This open enrollment period for Medicare Supplement (also called Medigap) is a little later than your initial enrollment period because it starts when you turn 65, not three months before your birthday.
This is the best time to buy a Medigap plan because you’ll have preferred pricing , and you can’t be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition. Plus, any plan you get is guaranteed renewable, helping you reduce the cost of medical bills for as long as you choose to keep the policy.
2 key points when choosing the best Medicare Supplement for you
- Each policy has the same coverage by plan letter, and all companies offering the same plan letter will provide the same level of hospital and medical benefits. This means that the main differences between providers will be cost and any extra benefits such as dental or vision.
- Costs vary widely based on each plan letter's coverage. For the cheapest option, choose Medigap Plan K, which costs $77 per month on average for a 65-year-old woman who doesn't smoke. For the most comprehensive coverage, enroll in Medigap Plan G, which costs an average of $148 per month.
What happens if you miss your Medigap open enrollment when you turn 65?
You can sign up for Medicare supplemental insurance at any time, and there are no dedicated late enrollment periods. However, if you miss your initial Medigap open enrollment, you probably won't get the best prices, and you can be denied coverage for a preexisting condition.
But if you qualify for a guaranteed issue period, then you can change your plan without having to worry about being denied or charged more for a preexisting condition.
Most states have expanded their criteria for guaranteed issue to provide more options for Medigap enrollment, but the rules vary. Twelve states have expanded their criteria so broadly that they're offering Medigap open enrollment on an annual or ongoing basis. This gives you greater freedom to sign up for Medigap insurance or change your plan.
Frequently asked questions
When is Medicare open enrollment?
Medicare open enrollment dates run from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. You can drop, add or switch Medicare plan types and companies during this period.
When does Medicare open enrollment end?
The fall Medicare annual enrollment period (AEP) ends on Dec. 7. However, depending on the type of Medicare you have or want to enroll in, you could be eligible for different enrollment periods, such as the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period from Jan. 1 through March 31.
When is Medicare Part D open enrollment?
Open enrollment dates for Medicare Part D coverage run from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. Other parts of Medicare have the same open enrollment period (OEP). Depending on your situation, you may also be able to update or change your prescription drug plan during several other Medicare enrollment periods throughout the year.
Is there an open enrollment period for Medicare Supplement plans?
Medicare Supplement, also called Medigap, has a seven-month initial enrollment period when you turn 65 that applies nationwide. But if you live in one of 12 states that have expanded Medigap enrollment, you may be able to apply annually or throughout the year. You can apply for a Medigap plan at any time, but you'll get the best rates and you can't be denied coverage if you join during an open enrollment period or a guaranteed issue period.
Can I change my Medicare Advantage plan after open enrollment?
After the fall open enrollment period, there is an extra Medicare Advantage open enrollment period that starts on Jan. 1 and lasts through March 31. During this time, those already enrolled in Medicare Advantage can switch to a different plan or even change their coverage to Original Medicare. However, you'll have fewer plan choices during this period compared to fall open enrollment.
When is open enrollment for health insurance?
Open enrollment for health insurance runs from Nov. 1 to Jan. 15 each year. However, if you want your coverage to begin by Jan. 1, you should enroll no later than Dec. 15.
Details, costs and comparisons are based on information from Medicare.gov, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Kaiser Family Foundation and state insurance agencies including:
- Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development
- Arizona Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions
- Connecticut Insurance Department
- Maine Bureau of Insurance
- Massachusetts Division of Insurance
- New York State Department of Financial Services
- Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner
- Wyoming Department of Insurance
Medicare Advantage cost estimates are based on 2024 plans. Costs for Medicare Part D and Medicare Supplement are based on our nationwide analysis of all prescription drug plans available throughout the country. And Medicare Advantage recommendations are based on our comparison of Medicare Advantage plans.