When can I enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan?

Medicare Election Periods
Election Period Medicare Part D Election Time Frame
Initial Election Period (IEP) Your IEP begins because you are turning 65 and newly eligible for Medicare

You may enroll during the 7-month period that starts 3 months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends 3 months after the month you turn 65.

Your IEP begins because you are newly eligible for Medicare due to a qualifying disability

Your opportunity to enroll begins 21 months after you get Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits and lasts through the 27th month after you get Social Security or RRB benefits.

Annual Election Period (AEP)
October 15 through December 7
During Medicare's Annual Election Period you may:
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage (MA-PD plan) to a Medicare Advantage Plan that does not offer drug coverage (MA plan).
  • Enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
  • Drop your Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage completely.
Note:The coverage you choose during AEP generally begins January 1 the following year.
Special Election Period (SEP) A Special Election Period allows you to join, switch or drop a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan if any of these circumstances apply to you:
  • You are enrolling into a 5 STAR Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
  • You recently returned to the United States after living permanently outside of the U.S.
  • You have both Medicare and Medicaid (or my state helps pay for my Medicare premiums) or I get Extra Help paying for my Medicare prescription drug coverage, but I haven’t had a change. I am making this enrollment request between January 1 and September 30 and I understand I can only make this request once per quarter.
  • You recently involuntarily lost your creditable prescription drug coverage (creditable means prescription drug coverage as good as Medicare basic Part D coverage).
  • You recently had a change in my Medicaid (newly got Medicaid, had a change in level of Medicaid assistance, or lost Medicaid).
  • You recently had a change in my Extra Help paying for Medicare prescription drug coverage (newly got Extra Help, had a change in the level of Extra Help, or lost Extra Help).
  • You are leaving/losing/joining an employer or union.
  • You belong to a State Pharmacy Assistance Program (SPAP).
  • You recently moved outside the service area for your current plan, or have recently moved and this plan is a new option for you.
  • Your plan is ending its contract with Medicare, or Medicare is ending its contract with your plan.
  • You recently left a Program of All inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE program).
  • You live in, are moving into, or recently moved out of a nursing home or Long-Term Care Facility.
  • You are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and want to make a change during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP) between January 1st and March 31st.
  • You are affected by a weather-related emergency or major disaster (as declared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). One of the other statements here applied to me, but I was unable to make my enrollment because of the natural disaster.
  • You were recently released from incarceration.
  • You recently obtained lawful presence in the United States.
  • You are enrolled in a plan by Medicare (or my state) and I want to choose a different plan.

The Special Election Period (SEP) reasons listed above are examples, and do not include every situation that may qualify for an SEP enrollment. Your eligibility for an SEP does not convey eligibility to enroll in the plan; in addition to having a valid enrollment period you must also meet all applicable Part D eligibility criteria. For more information about Special Election Periods, call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users call 1-877-486-2048, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Return to the Medicare FAQs section to view more answers to other commonly asked questions about Medicare prescription drug coverage. Contact us if you'd like more information about when to enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan.

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