3 essential Medicare enrollment periods you need to know about

By Steve Mendes, Marketing Brand Manager
February 02, 2016
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By Steve Mendes

You are turning 65, you have perused the available plan options and you know what coverage you need. Enrolling at the right time – and knowing your enrollment options – is just as important as knowing what plan and coverage to choose.

Not enrolling at the right time could lead to hefty penalties and fines – which you want to avoid. 

If you’re just getting started, check out Medicare Basics – What You Need to Know for an overview into Medicare.


There are three enrollment periods for those eligible for Medicare benefits: Annual Open Enrollment, Initial Enrollment and Special Enrollment.

Annual Open Enrollment Period

Medicare Open Enrollment Period is from October 15 to December 7 each year, and is when all Medicare beneficiaries, and those newly eligible for Medicare benefits, must either re-enroll in their current plan or choose a new one. New plan benefits become effective January 1 of the following year.

Something to remember: The Open Enrollment Period can begin and end on different days of the week each year. You can find the exact dates and days on Medicare.gov.

Initial Enrollment Period

The Initial Enrollment Period is seven-month period, for those who become newly eligible for Medicare, to sign up for Original Medicare Part A and/or Part B coverage. This one-time enrollment period begins three months before the month in which your 65th birthday falls and ends three months after your 65th birth month. Coverage begins on the first day of the month you turn 65.

Special Enrollment Period

If you didn’t sign up for Original Medicare during Open Enrollment or Initial Enrollment Period, you may quality for a Special Enrollment Period, if you have a major life change. This is an eight-month period following specific life events such as end of your current group health plan insurance. For all eligible life events, visit Medicare.gov.


To enroll in an Original Medicare plan call, Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), apply online at www.ssa.gov or visit your local Social Security office with proof of your age and W-2 forms from the past two years.

In addition to these enrollment periods, if you are 65 or older and are receiving Social Security benefits, or have been receiving disability benefits for two years, you are automatically enrolled in Original Medicare.

If you have any questions about enrollment periods or to learn more about Regence Medicare plans visit the Regence website or call a Medicare plan advisor at 1-844-REGENCE.