You must wait for a suitable Medicare Advantage enrollment period to enroll in a Part C plan. An election period is the narrow window of opportunity you have a chance to enroll in, get out of, or change your Medicare Advantage plan.

Medicare Advantage Enrollment Periods

There are three windows of opportunity to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.

  1. Initial Coverage Election Period
  2. Annual Election Period
  3. Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

Your Initial Coverage Election Period

Your Initial Coverage Election Period happens when you first become eligible for Original Medicare. It starts three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn 65, and ends three months after that. This election period can also happen after receiving Social Security benefits for 24 months minimum.

The window of opportunity is the same seven months, but instead of revolving around your birth month, the month of your official eligibility is in the center.

The Annual Election Period

If your Initial Coverage Election Period has come and gone, another enrollment period to make changes in the Annual Election Period. For all qualifying beneficiaries, the AEP starts October 15 and lasts through December 7. Your benefits will kick in on January 1 of the following year.

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

If you change your mind about Medicare Advantage, you’ll have to wait for The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, which occurs each year between January 1 and March 31.

During this window, you can switch to Original Medicare and enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. You can also switch to Medicare Advantage from Original Medicare if you prefer.

Special Election Periods

Unless you qualify for a Special Election Period, you can’t enroll in Medicare Advantage outside one of the three above enrollment windows. There are certain qualifying life events that you must experience to get approved for this SEP. Some of those include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • Losing Medicaid eligibility
  • Becoming eligible for Medicaid
  • Moving into an institution
  • Qualifying for the Extra Help prescription drug program
  • Moving to a new zip code that your Medicare Advantage Plan does not service


When can you add Medicare Advantage?

If you’re enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, you can add a Medicare Advantage plan during any of the above enrollment windows. Please note that you’ll leave Original Medicare when enrolling in Medicare Advantage.

How many months are included in an initial enrollment for a Medicare Advantage plan?

Your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period window will last a total of seven months. It will last three months before, the month of, and the last three months after your birthday.

Can I drop my Medicare Advantage plan and go back to my Original Medicare?

Yes, you can drop your Medicare Advantage plan and enroll in Original Medicare during the Annual Enrollment Period or the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period.

How to Enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan?

Working with a licensed Medicare agent can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Our online quoting tool can compare programs available in your zip code. Or, give us a call directly at the number above.

Written By:
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Lindsay Malzone, Lindsay Malzone is the Medicare editor for She's been contributing to many well-known publications since 2017. Her passion is educating Medicare beneficiaries on all their supplemental Medicare options so they can make an informed decision on their healthcare coverage.
Reviewed By:
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Rodolfo Marrero, Rodolfo Marrero is one of the co-founders at He has been helping consumers find the right coverage since the site was founded in 2013. Rodolfo is a licensed insurance agent that works hand-in-hand with the team to ensure the accuracy of the content.