What You Need to Know About Medicare Open Enrollment

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Medicare’s Open Enrollment is an essential period for anyone currently enrolled in Medicare health and drug plans. It’s the time when beneficiaries can review their current plans, make changes, and ensure they have the best coverage for their needs. Whether you’re new to Medicare or have been a beneficiary for years, understanding the Open Enrollment process is vital to maximizing your benefits and ensuring uninterrupted healthcare coverage. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate this essential period:

When is Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period?

Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period occurs every year from October 15 to December 7. During this time, individuals can make changes to their Medicare health plans and prescription drug coverage for the upcoming year.

Why is the Open Enrollment Period Important?

Throughout the year, Medicare health and drug plans can undergo changes in terms of cost, coverage, and the providers and pharmacies in their networks. The Open Enrollment Period allows beneficiaries to adjust their plans to better align with their needs. It’s a crucial window for individuals to ensure they’re receiving the optimal coverage tailored to their health needs and financial situation.

How to Determine if You Need to Change Plans?

It’s crucial for beneficiaries to review materials sent by their plans, such as the “Evidence of Coverage” (EOC) and “Annual Notice of Change” (ANOC). If there are changes in their current plans, they should ensure that these plans will still meet their requirements for the next year.

When is Information for Next Year’s Plans Available?

Information regarding the next year’s plans will be accessible starting in October.

How to Join a Medicare Plan?

To join a Medicare health plan, beneficiaries must:

  • Have Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance).
  • Reside in the service area of the plan they wish to join.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or lawfully present in the U.S.
  • Provide their Medicare Number and the start dates for their Part A and/or Part B coverage.

Enrollment Periods

  • Initial Enrollment Period: Starts 3 months before you get Medicare and ends 3 months after. Coverage start date varies based on when the plan receives your request.
  • Open Enrollment Period: From October 15 to December 7. Changes made during this period take effect on January 1 of the following year.
  • Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period: From January 1 to March 31, only for those already in a Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Special Enrollment Period: This period varies and is only for specific life situations, such as moving to a new address or losing current coverage.

How to Join a Medicare Health or Drug Plan?

  • Compare available plans in your area.
  • Ensure the chosen plan meets your needs, including prescription coverage and doctor network.
  • Join the plan either online, by contacting the plan directly, or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE.


Medicare’s Open Enrollment is a pivotal time for beneficiaries to ensure they have the best possible coverage for the upcoming year. By staying informed and proactive, you can make the most of this period and secure the healthcare you need.

For additional information, visit the Senior LinkAge Line which is a service of the Minnesota Board on Aging in partnership with Minnesota’s area agencies on aging. It offers a free universal resource for questions and help for older Minnesotans.


1. CMS.gov

2. Medicare.gov