2021 Medicare Enrollment Dates

The chart below summarizes important Medicare enrollment periods.

Be sure to refer to this chart so that you don’t miss out on your chance to enroll in the coverage you need.

Enrollment period DatesActions you can take during this period
Initial Enrollment PeriodStarts 3 months before the month you turn 65
Ends 3 months after the month you turn 65
Sign up for a plan
Medicare Open Enrollment Period
(aka Annual Enrollment)
Starts October 15th
Ends December 7th
Sign up for a plan
Switch plans
Leave a plan
Special Enrollment PeriodDepends on your personal situation (such as if you move or lose your – -insurance coverage) Depends on your personal situation (such as if you move or lose your insurance coverage)
General Enrollment PeriodStarts January 1st
Ends March 31st
Sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B (only if you didn’t sign up when first eligible and if you’re not eligible for a Special Enrollment Period)
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment PeriodStarts January 1st
Ends March 31st
Switch Medicare Advantage plans
Leave a Medicare Advantage plan

Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

The earliest time you can enroll in Original Medicare, a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan is during your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP).


Your Initial Enrollment period lasts for seven months:

  • It begins three months before you turn 65
  • It includes your birth month
  • It extends for another three months after your birth month

If you are under 65 and qualify for Medicare due to disability, the 7-month period is based around your 25th month of disability benefits.

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

If you choose not to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan or stand-alone Medicare prescription drug coverage during your Initial Enrollment Period, you can also enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP).

AEP is also called the Medicare Annual Election Period and the Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage.

This period runs from October 15 to December 7 every year.

During the Fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage, you can:

  • Enroll in, make changes to or disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan (Medicare Part C)
  • Enroll in, make changes to or disenroll from a Medicare Prescription Drug plan (Medicare Part D)

Plan changes you make during the 2020 Medicare Fall Annual Enrolment Period go into effect January 2021.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period starts January 1 and ends March 31 every year. During this period, you can switch Medicare Advantage plans or leave a Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare.

Medicare Special Enrollment Period (SEP)

Depending on your circumstances, you may also qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

Medicare Special Enrollment Periods can happen at any time during the year. You may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period for a number of reasons, which can include:

  • You moved to a new area that is outside of your current Medicare Advantage plan’s service area
  • You left your employer coverage
  • Medicare ended your current Medicare Advantage plan’s contract

A licensed insurance agent can help you find out if you qualify for a Medicare Special Enrollment Period.

Medicare General Enrollment Period

If you don’t sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period and if you aren’t eligible for a Special Enrollment Period, the next time you can enroll in Medicare is during the Medicare General Enrollment Period.

The General Enrollment Period lasts from January 1 to March 31 each year.

You can only sign up for Part A and/or Part B during this period, and your coverage starts on July 1. You may have to pay a late enrollment period for Part A and/or Part B, as detailed below.

Part B Late Enrollment Penalty: If you do not enroll in Medicare Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period but decide to enroll later in life, you will have to pay a late enrollment penalty.

Your Part B monthly premium could go up 10 percent for each 12-month period that you were eligible for Part B but didn’t sign up. You pay the Part B late enrollment penalty for the rest of your life as long as you remain enrolled in Part B.