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Key Medicare Advantage Deadlines You Won't Want To Miss

By Zawn Villines
To sign up for Medicare Advantage, make sure you compare plan options during an enrollment period.

If you're interested in joining a Medicare Advantage plan, you'll have to enroll during specific enrollment periods. Your eligibility and enrollment periods depend on a number of factors, including whether or not this is your first time signing up for the plan. If you want to enroll in Medicare Advantage or switch to a different plan, don't miss these key Medicare Advantage deadlines.

Initial Medicare Enrollment Deadline

During your initial enrollment period, you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage or original Medicare plan. The time frame for this first enrollment is as follows:

  • If you are eligible because you just turned 65: Your enrollment period is the 7-month period extending from three months before the month you turn 65 through three months after the month you turn 65. For example, if you turn 65 in April, your enrollment period includes January, February, March, April, May, June, and July.
  • If you are eligible because of a disability: Your enrollment period is the 7-month period that begins 3 months before your 25th month of Railroad Board disability or Social Security disability benefits, and extends 3 months after. So if your 25th month of disability benefits is in March, you would be eligible for enrollment the previous December, as well as January, February, March, April, May, and June.
  • If you have end-stage renal disease: You can sign up for Medicare as soon as you meet eligibility requirements. There is no specific enrollment period. However, there may be a delay between when you enroll and when your benefits kick in. For example, people on dialysis do not usually receive benefits until the day that begins the fourth month of dialysis treatment. If you do not enroll in a Medicare plan as soon as you meet all of the eligibility requirements, there might be a longer gap between signing up and coverage kicking in. In some cases, this waiting period is as long as a year.

Medicare Open Enrollment Deadline

During Medicare open enrollment, you can make a wide range of changes to your Medicare plan, including:

  • Switching from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage.
  • Changing from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
  • Leaving a Medicare Advantage plan to sign up for original Medicare.
  • Adding a prescription drug plan to your coverage.
  • Removing a prescription drug plan from your coverage.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment

Medicare Advantage offers a separate enrollment period that begins shortly after Medicare open enrollment. During Medicare Advantage open enrollment, you may:

  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
  • Leave Medicare Advantage and join an original Medicare plan.
  • Choose a prescription drug (Medicare Part D) plan if you leave Medicare Advantage and select original Medicare.

Medicare Advantage open enrollment begins January 1 and extends through March 31.