How Do You Enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan?

Tamera Jackson by Tamera Jackson | Licensed since 2007

This article was updated on: 08/29/2018

Are you wondering how to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan? Here’s some information for you, whether you’re:

  • Enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), but want to switch to Medicare Advantage
  • New to Medicare and thinking of signing up for Medicare Advantage
  • Already enrolled but want to switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan

Before you enroll in Medicare Advantage: a little background

Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) is an optional way to receive your Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) benefits. Under Part C, these benefits are delivered to you through a private insurance company that contracts with Medicare.

Many Medicare Advantage plans also include prescription drug coverage. Some people may find Medicare Advantage plans a convenient way to get all their Medicare coverage in one plan. Some plans may even include additional coverage, like routine dental care.
When you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you’re still in the Medicare program. You still need to pay your monthly Medicare Part B premium, as well as the plan premium (if it charges one).

How to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan: understand when you can sign up

Medicare Advantage plans have certain enrollment periods.

  • When you’re first eligible for Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, you get an enrollment period called the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). That period spans seven months. It starts three months before your birthday month, includes the birthday month, and continues three more months.
  • If you delay Part B enrollment, however, you can’t enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during your IEP. That’s because you have to have both Part A and Part B to qualify for Medicare Advantage. But you can typically get another enrollment period when you do sign up for Part B. It’s called the Initial Coverage Election Period.
  • Another enrollment period that comes up every year is the Fall Open Enrollment, also called the Annual Election Period. It goes from October 15 to December 7 every year. You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, switch from one plan to another, or make certain other coverage changes. Read about the Medicare Annual Election Period.
  • You can also get a one-time opportunity to switch between Medicare Advantage plans, starting in 2019. Read about the new open enrollment period for Medicare Advantage.
  • There may be situations where you qualify for a Special Election Period to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.

How to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan

You usually have several choices if you want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.

  • Click the Find Plans button on this page and follow the prompts to display a list of plans in your area. From there, you can compare plans and even enter your medications to compare plans in more detail (click Rx Drugs). Once you decide on a plan, you can enroll online by clicking the Enroll button.
  • Arrange a time to talk with us, and we can help you enroll. Use the links below to set up a phone call.
  • Call the insurance company that’s offering the plan you want.
  • Call Medicare at the number below.

Remember, you must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B to be eligible for Medicare Advantage, and you have to live in the plan’s service area. If you have end-stage renal disease (ESRD, which is permanent kidney failure), you might not be able to enroll in most Medicare Advantage plans. However, you can generally enroll in a type of Medicare Advantage plan called a Special Needs Plan.

Tamera Jackson |
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