New to Medicare? Choosing coverage for next year? Know these key dates

(BPT) - When can you sign up for Medicare? When can you switch plans if your health needs have changed? Understanding Medicare’s enrollment periods helps you get the coverage you need when you need it.

If you’re signing up for Medicare for the first time, your enrollment window is unique to you and based on your birthday month. Here’s a guideline for what timeframe applies to you.

New to Medicare?

Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) occurs around your 65th birthday, including the three months before and the three months after it. For example, if your birthday is in June, your IEP would be from March to September.

Once you’re enrolled in Medicare, there are set dates for when you are allowed to change your plan.

During the Annual Enrollment Period — Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 — all Medicare beneficiaries have the chance to choose plans for the following calendar year. This is the time for you to decide if your current plan fits your budget and your health needs.

Already on Medicare?

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period is Jan. 1 through March 31.

If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can take the following steps from Jan. 1 through March 31. Changes will be effective the first day of the following month.

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare (Parts A and B)
  • Sign up for a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan or Medicare Supplement plan, if you return to Original Medicare

Special Enrollment Periods are times when you can sign up for Medicare or change your plan if you qualify due to a life event like moving or retiring.

Looking to learn more? You may be enrolling in Medicare for the first time; you may be looking to change coverage during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, Oct. 15 to Dec. 7; you may be helping a loved one with their Medicare decisions. No matter your situation, visit GetToKnowMedicare.com to access resources to help you prepare and make confident Medicare decisions.

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