Medicare Open Enrollment 2024: What You Need to Know

Medicare open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 — a time to change or join Medicare plans.
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Medicare open enrollment is the period from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year when people already enrolled in Medicare can make changes to their coverage

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Medicare Open Enrollment. Accessed Nov 16, 2023.
. Understanding Medicare open enrollment can help you get the most out of your Medicare or Medicare Advantage coverage in 2024.

Did you know...

— Medicare open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 thru Dec. 7. — You can switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or vice versa. — You can also compare your Part D prescription drug plan coverage to other options.

It’s always a good idea to compare coverage and assess your health and prescription drug needs during this time “to make sure you have the Medicare coverage that’s best for you and your budget,” says David Lipschutz, associate director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

Still deciding on the right carrier? Compare Medicare Advantage plans

When is open enrollment for Medicare?

Medicare open enrollment happens every fall from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

What can you do during Medicare open enrollment?

You can do the following during the Medicare open enrollment period

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Joining a plan. Accessed Nov 16, 2023.
:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or vice versa.

  • Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan.

  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan without drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage, or vice versa.

  • Jump from one Medicare drug plan to a different Medicare drug plan.

  • Quit your Medicare prescription drug coverage.

If you return to Original Medicare during this annual enrollment period and you want Medicare Supplement Insurance, also known as Medigap, you may pay more than you expected for a supplement policy, or you may be denied coverage.

(Starting the first month you have Medicare Part B, you have six months in which you can buy any Medigap policy available in your area, regardless of your health situation. After that, with the exception of four states, Medigap companies may require a medical exam and either charge you more or deny you a policy if your health is a concern

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. When can I buy a Medigap policy?. Accessed Nov 16, 2023.
.)

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What can’t you do during Medicare open enrollment?

If you aren’t enrolled in Medicare, you can’t sign up for it during this period because Medicare open enrollment is specifically for people who are already enrolled in Medicare. If you qualify for it, you’ll need to sign up for Medicare during your initial enrollment period, during Medicare’s general enrollment period, or during a special enrollment period

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. When does Medicare coverage start?. Accessed Nov 16, 2023.
.

Important dates

Date

What's happening

Oct. 15 to Dec. 7

Medicare open enrollment period.

Jan. 1

Coverage begins for all changes made during Medicare open enrollment.

Jan. 1 to March 31

Medicare Advantage open enrollment period. If you're not happy with your Medicare Advantage plan after Medicare open enrollment, you can make a change during this time.

Shopping for Medicare Advantage plans? We have you covered.

MEDICARE ADVANTAGE is an alternative to traditional Medicare offered by private health insurers. Compare options from our Medicare Advantage roundup.

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What's available during Medicare open enrollment?

Here are the types of Medicare coverage available during the annual enrollment period:

Original Medicare consists of Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance)

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. What's Medicare?. Accessed Nov 16, 2023.
. Everyone must first enroll in these two parts, and pay the Part B premium, before selecting additional coverage options. (If you're currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you have the option to switch back to Original Medicare during Medicare open enrollment.)

Medicare Advantage (also known as Medicare Part C) plans are sold by private insurers as a bundled alternative to Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans may offer additional benefits, including some coverage for dental and vision care

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Understanding Medicare Advantage Plans. Accessed Nov 16, 2023.
. And Medicare Advantage policies usually incorporate Part D prescription drug coverage into the plan.

Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage (stand-alone policies) are also administered by private insurers. Part D is an optional program that helps cover the cost of your prescription drugs

. (You may owe a penalty if you go without Medicare drug coverage or other creditable prescription drug coverage for 63 or more consecutive days.)

Medicare Supplement Insurance plans, also known as Medigap plans, help pay your share of out-of-pocket health care costs incurred with Original Medicare parts A and B

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. What's Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap)?. Accessed Nov 16, 2023.
. If you have Original Medicare, you can apply for Medigap at any time, though you're generally only guaranteed a policy during your six-month Medigap open enrollment period, which starts the first month you're 65 or older and you have Medicare Part B.

Note: If you’ve claimed Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits before reaching age 65, you’ll automatically start receiving Original Medicare (parts A and B) the month you turn 65. You will be able to opt out of Part B if you have other qualifying health insurance, but Part A comes attached to Social Security benefits.

Best Medicare Advantage plans

Nearly half of Medicare-eligible people are in a Medicare Advantage plan. But each plan has different strengths and weaknesses. Here’s the list of Medicare Advantage plans this year that got our attention.

» Learn more in our roundup of the best Medicare Advantage plans

Frequently asked questions

If you aren’t enrolled in Medicare, you can’t sign up for it during this period because Medicare open enrollment is specifically for people who are already enrolled in Medicare. You can enroll in Medicare during your initial enrollment period, which generally includes the three months before and after your 65th birthday month, plus your birthday month. If you neglect to enroll in Medicare at that time, you’ll have to wait for Medicare’s general enrollment period from Jan. 1 to March 31 each year. If you wait for the general enrollment period, coverage will start July 1 and you may face late penalties.

Medicare open enrollment is from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year.

The Medicare Supplement Insurance open enrollment period is a six-month period that starts the first day of the month when you're 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B. During this period, Medigap companies must sell you a policy at the same price as everyone else, regardless of preexisting health conditions. After that time, in all but four states, companies can require a medical exam and charge a higher price for coverage or deny coverage altogether.

In signing up for Medicare, there are three enrollment periods to keep in mind:

  • Initial enrollment period: This is the first period when you’re eligible to sign up for Medicare, typically occurring the three months before and the three months after your 65th birthday month, plus your birthday month.

  • Special enrollment period: If you miss your initial enrollment period, there may be situations where you qualify for a special sign-up window. These situations include things like losing your employer health coverage or getting inaccurate information from your health plan.

  • General enrollment period: If you miss your initial enrollment period and you don’t qualify for a special enrollment period, you can sign up during the general enrollment period from Jan. 1 to March 31 each year. That said, you may pay penalties if you miss your first signup and go without coverage until this date.

Despite its name, Medicare open enrollment is not for first-timers to sign up, but rather for people who already have Medicare to make changes to their coverage, if desired.

Still deciding on the right carrier? Compare Medicare Advantage plans

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