When can I enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan?

Medicare Enrollment Periods
Enrollment Period Medicare Part D Enrollment Time Frame
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) If you are newly eligible for Medicare because you are turning 65
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 651.

If you are newly eligible for Medicare due to a qualifying disability
If you are under 65 you are eligible to enroll in Medicare if you have a qualifying disability. You will have a 7-month enrollment window that opens 3 months before your 25th month of receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits and ends 3 months afterwards. Your coverage will begin the first day of the month after you ask to join a plan. If you join during one of the 3 months before you first get Medicare, your coverage will begin the first day of your 25th month of entitlement to disability payments.
Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) Medicare’s AEP begins October 15 and ends December 7 of each year. The choices you make generally take effect January 1 of the following year. During AEP you may:
  • Switch Medicare Advantage Plans, including one that does offer drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that does not offer drug coverage.
  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.
Special Enrollment Period (SEP) Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
The Special Enrollment Period allows you to join, switch or drop a Medicare prescription drug plan if any of these circumstances apply to you:
  • You recently returned to the United States after living permanently outside of the U.S.
  • You have both Medicare and Medicaid (or your state helps pay for your Medicare premiums) or you get Extra Help paying for your Medicare prescription drug coverage, but you haven’t had a change.
  • You recently had a change in your Extra Help paying for your Medicare prescription drug coverage (newly got Extra Help, had a change in the level of Extra Help, or lost Extra Help).
  • You recently involuntarily lost your creditable prescription drug coverage (as good as Medicare’s).
  • You recently had a change in your Medicaid (newly got Medicaid, had a change in level of Medicaid assistance, or lost Medicaid).
  • In the last 12 months, you left a Medigap policy to join a Medicare Advantage Plan with prescription drug coverage for the first time.
  • You are leaving/losing/joining an employer or union.
  • You belong to a Pharmacy Assistance Program provided by your state.
  • You recently moved outside the service area for your current plan, or you 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 PACE program (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly.)
  • 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).
  • You are enrolled in a plan by Medicare (or your state), and you want to choose a different plan.
  • 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 you, but you were unable to make your enrollment because of the natural disaster.

The Special Enrollment Period (SEP) reasons listed above are examples and do not include every situation that may qualify for a SEP enrollment. Your eligibility for an SEP does not convey eligibility to enroll in the plan; in addition to having a valid enrollment period, an individual must also meet all applicable Part D eligibility criteria. For more information about SEP reasons, call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (Phone Number1-800-633-4227). TTY users call Phone Number1-877-486-2048, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Return to the Medicare FAQ 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.

1If your birthday falls on the first of any month, your 7-month IEP begins and ends one month sooner. For example, if your birthday is July 1st, your 7-month IEP is the same as if you were born in June - beginning in March and ending in September.