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August 4, 2021
Save the Date for These Medicare Deadlines

Save the Date for These Medicare Deadlines

Ah, summer. Long sunny days, weekend barbecues and, of course, wedding season. By the end of the sunny season, the fridge is filled with invitations and sate the dates. Looking at the assortment of fancy papers got us thinking — what other important events deserve their own save the date cards?

There are a few dates every American senior should have saved in their calendars. That’s right, we’re talking about Medicare deadlines.

These important times affect every American over 65, but many don’t have a clue when they are. Consider this your “Save the Date” for all things Medicare.

One-Time Enrollment Periods

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) = Happy 65th Birthday!

7-month window: Three months before, the month of, and three months after your 65th birthday

The most important date to remember with Medicare is also the easiest because it’s your own birthday — your 65th birthday to be exact. The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is the 7-month window around your 65th birthday. That’s the month of your birth and the three months before and after it.  

During your IEP, you can enroll in Medicare Parts A, B, and D for the first time. If you have other coverage, such as an employer’s plan for you or your spouse, you don’t have to sign up for Medicare yet. However, it’s always nice to layer coverage.  

Read More: Is Medicare Coverage Free at Age 65?  

It's worth noting that if your birthday is on the first day of the month, Medicare treats it like it’s the last day off the previous month. This means that your entire IEP gets shifted back a month. So, if your birthday is April 1st, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke. Medicare will treat your birthday like it’s in March.

Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP)

7-month window, beginning three months before your Part B coverage takes effect

For most people, your ICEP will be the same time window as your IEP. However, if you join Medicare after age 65, your ICEP will begin three months before your Part B coverage takes effect. This is the time to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan or add a Medicare Part D drug plan if it fits your needs.  

Read More: Medicare Advantage vs. Medicare Supplements: How Do You Choose?  

Medigap Open Enrollment Period

6-month window, beginning the month you turn 65 and are enrolled in Medicare Part B

During this 6-month window, you may be able to purchase any Medigap policy (also known as Medicare Supplement) sold in your state without having to answer any healthcare underwriting questions.

After this enrollment period, you may have to go through medical underwriting and risk being declined coverage or offered an increased rate if you have health problems.  

Enrolling in Medicare After Working Past Age 65

8-month window beginning the month after your employment ends or the month after your group health plan insurance based on your current employment ends

During this 8-month special enrollment period, you can sign up for Part A and/or Part B of Medicare without any late enrollment period. So, if you retire after 65, remember that you have an 8-month window after that date or the end of your current plan to sign up for Medicare.

One-Time Opportunities to Change Your Mind

Trial Right

12-month period after dropping a Medigap policy to join a Medicare Advantage plan for the first time

If you had a Medigap policy and dropped it to join a Medicare Advantage plan for the first time, you have 12 months to change your mind and switch back to your prior Medigap policy (if the same insurance company still sells it). If your former Medigap policy isn’t available, you may be able to buy a Plan D or G sold by any insurance company in your state.  

5-Star Enrollment Period

December 8-November 30 of the following year

Just like hotels and fancy restaurants, some Medicare plans have earned special 5-star ratings. If a Medicare Advantage plan, Medicare Part D drug plan, or Medicare Cost plan with a 5-star rating is available in your area, you can use this window of time to switch from your current plan to that 5-star plan.

You can only use this 5-star enrollment period once in your lifetime.

Annual Medicare Dates You Need to Know

You’re over 65 and you have your Medicare coverage. That means you don’t have to worry about it anymore, right? Well, not quite. There are some important dates every year that you’ll need to remember to get the most out of your plans.  

Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) Mailing

Sometime during September every year

If you have a Medicare Part D drug plan or any type of Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll likely receive your ANOC in September.

Private plan providers are required to send you this letter, which outlines any changes they’ve made to your plan, which would go into effect on January 1 of the following year. Don't worry – if you're not happy with the changes, you can switch plans during AEP, which lasts from October 15-December 7.

Next Year’s Part D and Medicare Advantage Plans Announced

October 1  

Medicare Part D drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans for the following year are announced on October 1st. You usually can’t enroll in a plan until the Annual Enrollment Period, which starts on October 15, but you can start exploring your coverage options for the upcoming year.

It’s always a good idea to speak with a trusted agent before you lock down a plan, so that you can ensure you've chosen the best coverage for your needs and budget.

The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

October 15-December 7

This is one of the most important times to remember if you’re over 65 and looking at altering your coverage. You can make changes to your Medicare Part D drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan during AEP every fall.

Outside of special circumstances and turning 65, this is generally the only time of year you’re allowed to switch or enroll in a drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan.  

Coverage Begins from AEP Enrollments

January 1

If you signed up for a Medicare Part D drug plan or a Medicare Advantage plan during AEP, your coverage would begin on January 1st. Happy New Year and Happy New Insurance Coverage for the year!

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP)

January 1-March 31

If you have a Medicare Advantage, you’re usually allowed to switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan or go back to Original Medicare during this annual period.

This only applies to you if you quickly decide you do not like your Medicare Advantage plan and want to switch to something else as soon as possible.

General Enrollment Period (MA OEP)

January 1-March 31

If you missed signing up for Medicare the first time around, you can sign up for Medicare Part B during this period.

The Medicare Part B premium penalty will apply, and coverage will begin July 1st. Note that this is for Medicare Part B only.  

Drug Plan Enrollment After GEP

April 1-June 30

If you enroll in Part B during the GEP, you can sign up for a Medicare Part D drug plan between April 1-June 30.  

Coverage Begins from GEP Enrollments

July 1

If you signed up for Medicare during the General Enrollment Period, your coverage will start on July 1. Remember: you may have to pay the Part B late enrollment penalty.


To help you remember all of this, here is our “save the date” card for Medicare. Print it out, put it on the fridge and don’t miss another important Medicare date.

To print this card, right click and select "Save Image As." Once you've saved your image, open the downloaded file on your computer and print it!

If you have questions or want to get ahead on your Medicare coverage planning, reach out and talk to one of our experts. We’re here to help!

Luke Hockaday
Luke Hockaday
Luke Hockaday is a Customer Success Rep here at Senior Allies. Luke has been helping Medicare-eligible clients with their insurance and retirement-planning needs since 2011. Luke is passionate about 3 things, and 3 things only: senior insurance, football, and food!

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