How and When to Enroll in Medicare in 2022

In this Guide...

Don't miss your Medicare enrollment period deadlines, or you may be subject to higher costs, late enrollment penalties or lapses in coverage. Learn how to enroll in Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D prescription drug plans or Medicare Supplement (Medigap) coverage during the correct Medicare sign up periods.

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Updated 8/12/2022

Medicare has several different enrollment periods and eligibility rules that are unique to each part of Medicare, as well restrictions on the types of plans that can be purchased during each Medicare enrollment period. 

This Medicare enrollment guide contains all the information you’ll need about when, how and what to sign up for so you can make the most of your 2022 Medicare enrollment periods, health care benefits and coverage opportunities. 

1
Enrollment Periods for Medicare

There are six different types of Medicare sign up periods, with different actions you can take during each period, such as enrolling in a new Medicare plan or switching form one type of plan to another. 

Medicare Enrollment Period 2022

Dates

What you can do

Initial Enrollment Period

- Begins 3 months before you turn 65 years old

- Ends 3 months after turning 65 

Sign up for:

- Original Medicare (Parts A and B)

- Medicare Advantage (Part C)

- Part D drug coverage

- Medicare Supplement (Medigap)

Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), also called the Fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period

Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 

- Sign up for Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Part D

-Switch Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plans

-Drop a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan and switch back to Original Medicare

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

Jan. 1 to March 31

- Switch Medicare Advantage plans

- Drop a Medicare Advantage plan and switch back to Original Medicare

- Add Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage if you dropped a plan with drug coverage

Medigap Open Enrollment Period

Begins the day you are at least 65 years old and enrolled in Medicare Part B. Your Medigap Open Enrollment period lasts for 6 months

Sign up for a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plan

General Enrollment Period

Jan. 31 to March 31

Enroll in Original Medicare if you did not do so during your Initial Enrollment Period

Special Enrollment Period

May be granted at anytime

Depends on your personal situation

Five-Star Enrollment Period

Dec. 8 to Nov. 30 

Switch to a five-star Medicare Advantage plan from a plan rated fewer than five stars

 

2
Initial Enrollment Period

Everyone who becomes eligible for Medicare is given an Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which represents your very first opportunity to enroll in coverage. 

Your Initial Enrollment Period begins on the first day of the month that is three months before the month that you turn 65 years old.

  • For example, if you turn 65 on July 15th, your Initial Enrollment Period will begin on April 1st (three months before your birthday month).

  • Your Initial Enrollment Period then includes the month of your birthday and continues for another three months, for a total of seven months. 

In the example above, your Initial Enrollment Period would begin April 1 and end October 31 (three months after your birthday month). 

When it is: Begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after. 

Who it’s for: U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who are three months away from turning 65 years old.

What you can do: During your Initial Enrollment Period, you can sign up for Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) for the first time. You may also enroll in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan, a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D) or a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plan.

If you sign up for Medicare prior to your 65th birthday month, your coverage will begin on the first day of your birthday month. (If your birthday is on the first day of the month, your coverage will begin on the first day of the previous month.)

If you enroll during or after your 65th birthday month, your coverage will begin on the first day of the following month.

Most beneficiaries don't have to sign up for Medicare Part A or add Part B of Medicare because they are automatically enrolled.

If you need to manually enroll in Medicare, you can apply online at SSA.gov, the official website of the Social Security Administration.

You can also call the official toll-free number of Medicare: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) TTY number: 1-877-486-2048.

3
Fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period

When people use a term such as “Medicare open enrollment,” they are most often referring to the Annual Enrollment Period, or AEP. These 2022 Medicare open enrollment dates are from October 15 to December 7, which are the same dates each year.

When it is: Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 every year.

Who it’s for: Those who are already enrolled in either Original Medicare (Parts A and B) or a private Medicare plan.

What you can do: You can sign up for or switch Medicare plans during Medicare open enrollment 2022, including the following options.

  • Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Enroll in a Medicare Part D plan
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • Switch from one Part D plan to another
  • Drop a Medicare Advantage plan and returning to Original Medicare
  • Drop a Part D plan 

It's important to remember whether you hear it called the 2022 Part D Open Enrollment Period, Medicare Annual Election Period or any other name, the 2022 Medicare enrollment period lasting from October 15 to December 7 may be the only time of year you can change or update your Medicare coverage.

Don't miss your chance to compare plans and potentially find more affordable coverage or extra benefits during Medicare open enrollment 2022.

If you have Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan without drug coverage, you can consider enrolling in a Medicare Part D standalone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP).

Whether you're new to Medicare or if you already have a Part D plan but want to compare your plan options before the upcoming fall open enrollment period, you can get a free quote online or call to chat with a licensed insurance agent and compare plans.

4
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

If you aren’t happy with your Medicare Advantage plan, you can do drop the plan and switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or revert to Original Medicare during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. This enrollment period lasts from January 1 to March 31 each year. 

When it is: Jan. 1 to March 31.

Who it’s for: Those who are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. 

What you can do: Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan or drop your plan and switch to Original Medicare. If you drop your Medicare Advantage plan (whether or not the plan offered prescription drug coverage), you may sign up for a Part D Medicare drug plan.  

5
Medigap Open Enrollment Period

This enrollment period is your first opportunity to enroll in Medicare Supplement Insurance, or Medigap. This is also the best time to apply for a Medigap plan, for reasons we’ll explain below

Your Medigap Open Enrollment Period begins the day that you are at least 65 years old and enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B. Your Medigap Open Enrollment Period lasts for six consecutive months.

For many people, their Medicare Supplement open enrollment period will overlap with part of their Initial Enrollment Period.  

You may still purchase a Medigap plan after your Medigap OEP has ended. As mentioned above, however, your best time to apply for a Medigap plan is during your open enrollment period.

If you apply for a Medicare Supplement plan during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, not even the top Medicare Supplement insurance companies can deny you coverage or charge higher rates based on your health.

During your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, you have what are called guaranteed issue rights. When you have guaranteed issue rights, insurance companies can’t use medical underwriting (medical exams and/or health questions) to determine your eligibility or plan premiums.

If you apply for a Medicare Supplement plan during this enrollment period, insurers are prohibited from basing your rates on your health, and you will be offered a standard rate for the plan.

There may be other qualifying life circumstances that allow you to have guaranteed issue rights at other times outside of your Medigap Open Enrollment Period. While you can apply for a Medigap plan at any time of the year, you’re typically better off doing so when you have guaranteed issue rights.

When it is: Begins the day you are 65 or older and enrolled in Part A and Part B. It lasts for six months. 

Who it’s for: Those who are at least 65 years old and enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B.

What you can do: Sign up for a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plan.

6
General Enrollment Period

If you didn’t enroll in Original Medicare Part A and Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period, you may be able to do so during the 2022 Medicare General Enrollment Period that lasts from January 1 to March 31 each year.

When it is: Jan. 1 to March 31.

Who it’s for: Anyone who is eligible for Medicare but did not enroll during their Initial Enrollment Period. 

What you can do: Sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B. You may not enroll in Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D during this enrollment period.

7
Special Enrollment Periods

Special Enrollment Periods do not have fixed dates and may be granted at any time throughout the year to beneficiaries who experience certain hardships or qualifying life events.

For example, if you move to a new state that isn’t part of the service area of your current Medicare plan, you will be given a Special Enrollment Period so that you can join a plan that utilizes the doctors and hospitals in your new place of residence. 

When it is: Varies on a case-by-case basis.

Who it’s for: Medicare beneficiaries who experience a qualifying life event that may include (but is not limited to):

  • Moving to a new area
  • Losing or gaining eligibility for Medicaid
  • Losing employer-sponsored coverage
  • Having a plan that terminates its contract with Medicare

What you can do: Varies depending on your individual circumstances. 

8
Five Star Enrollment Period

Every year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) uses a five-star rating system to rate the quality of all Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D. Five-star plans represent the highest quality plans, while plans with a three star rating are considered average. 

From December 8 to November 30 of the following year, those who live in an area with a five-star Medicare Advantage plan available can switch to that plan if they are currently enrolled in a plan that is rated less than five stars. 

When it is: Dec. 8 to Nov. 30.

Who it’s for: Medicare Advantage plan members who are enrolled in a plan rated fewer than five stars. 

What you can do: Switch to a top-rated five-star Medicare Advantage plan.  

9
Enrolling in Medicare Under Age 65

Some Medicare enrollment periods are based on a person being 65 years old. But what about those who are under 65?

  • You may be eligible to enroll in Medicare if you are under 65 years old and have a qualifying disability. If you have collected disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board for 24 consecutive months, you become eligible to sign up for Medicare during your 25th month of receiving such benefits. 

  • If you have End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), there is no 24-month waiting period, and you are eligible to enroll in Medicare immediately. 

  • Those under the age of 65 may be eligible to enroll in Medicare Part D plans and Medicare Advantage plans if they’re eligible for Original Medicare.

    A Special Needs Plan is a type of Medicare Advantage plan that is designed specifically for someone with a particular health condition or disability. These plans contain a set of benefits that may be attractive to someone under the age of 65 who has a chronic health condition or is dual-eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.  

Those under the age of 65 are also eligible to enroll in Medigap, although not every beneficiary will be able to do so. The decision to offer Medigap to those under age 65 is left up to each state, and not every state requires insurers to do so. 

The following 34 states require insurers who sell Medigap to offer at least some of their plans to Medicare beneficiaries who are under age 65. In some states, all Medigap plans sold by a company will be available to those under 65. Premiums for plans in some states may be higher for those under 65.

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

In all other states there are no requirements for insurance companies to sell plans to those under 65 years old. 

10
Automatic Enrollment vs Manual Enrollment

Most people are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B once they become eligible, but others may have to manually sign up for Medicare. 

  • If you are collecting retirement or disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B as soon as you become eligible and will receive a “Welcome to Medicare” packet in the mail. This typically happens around three months before your 65th

  • If you choose to delay your Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits and are not yet collecting those payments when you turn 65, you will not be automatically enrolled and must sign up manually online, over the phone or at your local Social Security office.   

One important thing to note: Medicare Part B enrollment is optional. If you qualify for automatic Medicare enrollment, you will be enrolled in Part B and then given instructions on how to opt out of Part B if you wish.

11
Medicare Enrollment Eligibility

Each type of Medicare coverage comes with its own eligibility rules. 

Original Medicare

What it is: Original Medicare is made up of two parts.

  • Part A is hospital insurance. It covers hospital costs and other inpatient care.
  • Part B is medical insurance. It covers outpatient care like doctor’s appointments, medical equipment and supplies, outpatient treatments, certain vaccines and more. 

Original Medicare requires you to be at least 65 years old or have a qualifying disability. You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident of at least five years to be eligible for Medicare.

Medicare Advantage

What it is: Medicare Advantage, or Medicare Part C, provides all of the same benefits as Medicare Part A and Part B while also typically adding coverage for some things not covered by Original Medicare. Some of these extra benefits can include things such as dental, vision and hearing care, prescription drugs, gym memberships and more. 

In order to join a Medicare Advantage plan, you must be enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B and live in the area in which your desired plan is sold.  89% of Medicare Advantage plans cover prescription drugs in 2022, and more than 94% of plans offer one or more of the benefits listed above.

Make sure you at least check your Medicare plan's 2023 benefits and costs before Medicare open enrollment ends on December 7. The fall open enrollment period may be the only chance you have to compare plans and find a new Medicare Advantage plan with more benefits, wider network coverage or lower costs than your current plan.

Medicare Part D

What it is: Medicare Part D provides coverage for prescription medications. 

In order to be eligible for a Medicare Part D plan, you must first either be enrolled in either Medicare Part A or Part B (or both). You may enroll in a Part D plan if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that does not provide prescription drug coverage. However, you are not eligible for Part D if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that already includes prescription drug benefits.

Lastly, you must reside in the area in which your desired plan is sold. 

Medicare Supplement Insurance

What it is: Medicare Supplement Insurance, or Medigap, provides coverage for deductibles, copayments, coinsurance and various other out-of-pocket costs required by Medicare Part A and Part B. 

To apply for a Medigap plan, you must be enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B and live in the area in which the desired plan is sold. 

12
How to Enroll in Medicare

If you qualify for automatic enrollment into Original Medicare, you should receive your “Welcome to Medicare” packet to arrive in the mail. This will include your Medicare card, Medicare handbook and all other enrollment materials. 

If you do not qualify for automatic enrollment, sign up manually online, over the phone or in person at a Social Security office. 

For Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D and Medicare Supplement Insurance, contact an insurance agent who is licensed to sell plans in your area to compare policies, discuss your options and get enrolled. 

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