Enrolling in Medicare Outside of Open Enrollment

enrolling in medicare outside of open enrollment; man smashing clock with a hammer over blue background

Medicare Open Enrollment, sometimes called the Annual Election Period, is October 15 – December 7 of every year. Open Enrollment is a good time to sign up for coverage or change it if you need to, but you may not have to wait for this period to make changes to your Medicare coverage. There are certain circumstances that allow you to enroll in, switch, or drop Medicare coverage outside of this window.

Chances to enroll in Medicare outside of Open Enrollment 

  1. You turn 65. Some people will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A once they turn 65, but most people will have to enroll in Medicare Part B The first opportunity for you to do this is during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). This window is the three months leading up to your 65th birthday, your birthday month, and the three following months. The IEP is when most people will enroll in Medicare, but you can enroll during Open Enrollment if you miss this opportunity.
  2. You have dual enrollment of Medicare and Medicaid. If you have dual enrollment of both Medicare and Medicaid, you can join, switch, or drop Medicare Advantage and prescription drug coverage at any time during the year.
  3. You move to a new coverage area. Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) is the same all over the country, but most Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans vary in coverage and costs depending on where you live. If you move to a new county or state, check to see if your current plan is offered in that area. If you tell your plan you’re moving before you move, you can change plans up to a month before and up to two months after your move. If you wait until your move to tell your plan, you can typically change plans immediately or up to two months after moving.
  4. You lose employer group coverage. If you’re still working when you become eligible for Medicare, you may decide to delay coverage until you leave your job. Once you leave your job, retire, or otherwise lose coverage, you can enroll in Medicare during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) that lasts up to two months after your employment ends. Alternatively, if you have been covered by Medicare but decide to go back to work for a company that provides group healthcare coverage, you can drop your Medicare coverage as soon as your employer’s group plan kicks in.
  5. Other situations. There are other situations that would allow you to enroll in, switch, or drop Medicare coverage outside of the Open Enrollment Period. These circumstances will likely qualify you for a Special Enrollment Period and allow you to enroll without a late enrollment penalty. For example, if you move back to the United States after living abroad or you are released from prison, you would likely qualify for an SEP. If you’re not sure if you qualify for an SEP, contact your local Social Security office.

If you’re not sure when you can enroll in Medicare, contact your local Social Security office by visiting them in-person or calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users 1-800-325-0778) 7am-7pm, Monday – Friday.

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