When to Enroll in Medicare Part D Plans

When can you enroll in a Medicare Part D plan?

Medicare has specific enrollment periods for Part D enrollment. It is important to understand the various Medicare Part D enrollment periods. Review them carefully so you don’t miss the enrollment period that applies to you.

Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

Every year, the AEP begins October 15th and ends December 7th for Medicare-eligible individuals to enroll in a plan that works best for them. Coverage begins January 1st of the following year.

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)1

Your IEP for enrolling in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan is a 7-month period that begins 3 months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends 3 months after the month you turn 65.

If you’re under 65, you are eligible to enroll in Medicare if you have a qualifying disability and receive a Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) disability benefit. 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.

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 to your 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 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).
  • 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 you want to make a change during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP). 
  • You were enrolled in a plan by Medicare (or your state), and you want to choose a different plan.
  • You were 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.
  • You were recently released from incarceration.
  • You recently obtained lawful presence status in the United States.

The Special Enrollment Period (SEP) reasons listed above are examples, and they do not include every situation that may qualify for a SEP enrollment. Your eligibility for a 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 (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Ready to Enroll Online

1Your IEP is the 7-month period that begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes your birthday month and ends three months afterward. There is an exception: if 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 1, your 7-month IEP is the same as if you were born in June— beginning in March and ending in September. During the 7-month period that starts 3 months before your 25th month of getting Social Security or RRB disability benefits and ends 3 months after your 25th month of getting disability benefits. 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.