When to join a Medicare health or drug plan (Part D)

Enrollment period:

You can:

Coverage starts:

Initial Enrollment Period
(new to Medicare)

Starts 3 months before you get Medicare and ends 3 months after you get Medicare.

Join any plan.

Varies, depending on when the plan gets your request:

  • If you request to join a plan before your Medicare starts: Your plan coverage starts the same day as when your Medicare starts.
  • If you request to join a plan after your Medicare starts: Your plan coverage starts the first of the month after the plan gets your request.

Initial Enrollment Period – New to Part B
(only if you get Part B after your Part A coverage starts)

The 3 months before your Part B starts.

Join any Medicare Advantage Plan with or without drug coverage.

The same day as when your Part B coverage starts.

Open Enrollment Period
October 15-December 7.

Join, drop, or switch to another plan. (You can add or drop drug coverage.)

January 1 of the next year.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
(only if you’re already in a Medicare Advantage Plan)

  • Switch to another Medicare Advantage Plan with or without drug coverage.
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage Plan and go back to Original Medicare. You can also join a Medicare drug plan .

First of the month after the plan gets your request.

Special Enrollment Period
Varies. Only for certain situations that happen in your life, like you move to a new address, you lose or have a change to your current coverage, you have Medicaid or get Extra Help paying drugs costs, and more.

Varies. Generally, you can join or switch to another plan.

Varies. Generally the first of the month after the plan gets your request.

Learn more about enrollment periods, when you can use them, and the types of plans you can join.

How to join a Medicare health or drug plan (Part D)

  1. Find out which plans are available in your area.
    • Compare plans in your area – Find out what they cost and services they provide. Enter prescription drugs you take to get an estimate of your monthly and yearly cost for each plan.
    • Use your “Medicare & You” handbook to find plans – they’re listed in the back.
    • Talk to a trusted agent or broker – Check the rules they have to follow. 
Contact your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to get free personalized health insurance counseling. SHIPs aren’t connected to any insurance company or health plan.
  1. Make sure the plan meets your needs:
    • Check if the plan covers your prescriptions and includes the benefits you need.
    • Ask your doctors if they’re in the plan’s network.
    • Review costs, like monthly premiums, deductibles , and the estimate of your yearly costs for drugs you take.
    • If you have other health insurance or drug coverage, talk to your benefits administrator or other insurance provider before you make any changes to your current coverage.
  2. Join the plan. Once you choose a plan, you can:
    • Join the plan - Select “Enroll” for the plan you want to join.
    • Contact the plan to join. You can call them or visit their website. You can also ask for a paper form to fill out and mail back to the plan, but they must get it before your enrollment period ends.
    • Call us at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.

You’ll need your Medicare Number to join a plan. Where to find your Medicare Number

You can only join, switch, or drop a plan at certain times, called enrollment periods. Learn more about enrollment periods, when you can use them, and the types of plans you can join.

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