Are you a planner at heart? Many of us are so busy we have calendars to keep track of all the activities going on in our lives: birthday parties, appointments, anniversaries, little league baseball games. As we  get closer to reaching age 65, and even once we do, it’s important to keep a few dates in mind… the different Medicare enrollment periods.

Why is this important to remember? If you miss the right time to enroll, you could face penalty charges later on, which can cost you a ton. Or, your coverage could be delayed. Play it safe and mark these dates.

Initial Enrollment Period

Who: Folks turning 65

When: A seven-month window, starting 3 months before you turn 65, your birthday month, and 3 months after you turn 65.

What: During this time, you can enroll in:

  • Original Medicare (Parts A and B)
  • A stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D)
  • Medicare Advantage (Part C)

Why: If you don’t sign up in this window, you could face penalties, aka higher premiums.

Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period

Who: Folks turning 65 looking for additional coverage to their Original Medicare Plan

When: A six-month window, that starts the first day of the month you turn 65. (One caveat- you must be enrolled in Part B)

What: Additional coverage for services and costs not covered by Original Medicare.

Why: If you don’t sign up for a Medicare Supplement plan during this time, you might not be able to buy a Medicare Supplement plan.

General Enrollment Period

Who: Folks who didn’t sign up when they were first eligible; folks who aren’t eligible for Special Enrollment

When: Between Jan. 1 and March 31 each year for those who are eligible

What: A second chance to sign up for Medicare Parts A and B

Why: Because you might have missed your window of opportunity, but second chances are real.

Annual Enrollment Period

Who: Anyone who wants to make changes to their coverage

When: Between October 15 and December 7

What: During this time you can:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or vice versa
  • Join or drop a Medicare prescription drug plan
  • Switch from Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage to one without, or vice versa
  • Update your coverage by switching to a new insurer

Why: Gives you the chance to shop around and find the best plan for your individual needs and budget.

If you need help finding a plan that works for your unique needs, take our quick, no-obligation Medicare benefits finder quiz or call our Medicare Benefits Review Hotline at 855-515-5087. This is a completely FREE service!