The New Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

Senior couple sits at a desk and talks about the new Medicare Advantage Enrollment Period

Medicare Advantage plans have a new open enrollment period starting in 2019. Here’s what you need to know about this update, and how it could affect your Medicare enrollment process.

What’s different about this enrollment period?

The main difference is the timeframe for the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. This replaces the Medicare Disenrollment Period, which previously occurred from January 1 to February 14. Now, Medicare Advantage plan holders have between January 1 to March 31 to:1

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan
  • Drop their Medicare Advantage plan and switch back to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B)
  • Add standalone Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Plan) coverage to their Original Medicare coverage

What are the different Medicare Enrollment Periods?

Once you turn 65, you’re eligible to enroll in Medicare. In some states, Medicare supplement policies are available to those eligible for Medicare due to a disability, regardless of age. But if you miss your initial enrollment, there are specific times that you’re able to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans. Other Medicare plans have certain enrollment periods as well. It’s important to familiarize yourself so you don’t miss any important deadlines.

Initial Enrollment Period General Enrollment Period

Products: All Medicare Plans – A, B, C, D, and Medicare Supplement

When: This is the seven-month period when you can first enroll in Medicare. It starts three months before your 65th birthday and continues through your birthday month, then for three months after.

What you should know: During this time, Medicare insurance providers can’t require underwriting or deny you coverage due to preexisting conditions.

Products: Parts A and B

When: This enrollment period is from January 1 to March 31, and only applies to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). Your Medicare coverage will then start on July 1 on that year.

What you should know: If you missed your initial enrollment period for Original Medicare, this would be a good time to enroll if you need coverage before the Annual Enrollment Period starts in October.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period Annual Enrollment Period

Products: Part A, B, C and D – if you meet certain conditions

When: This new open enrollment period starts January 1 and ends March 31 every year.

What you should know: : If you don’t have a Part C plan yet, you will not be eligible to enroll in this window and will have to wait to enroll during the annual enrollment period.

But if you already have a Part C plan:

  • You can switch Medicare Advantage plans during this time.
  • Or you can drop your Medicare Advantage coverage and return to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B).
  • You are also allowed to switch to a standalone Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug) plan.

This new enrollment period replaces the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period that occurred January 1 to February 14 every year.

Products: All Medicare Plans – A, B, C, D, and Medicare Supplement

When: This occurs every year from October 15 to December 7.

What you should know: During this time, you can enroll in Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug) plans.

(Note: you can apply for Medicare Supplement Insurance any time of the year. But, your application may be subjected to underwriting if you apply after your initial enrollment period.)

What does Medicare Advantage cover?

You may be wondering about the details of Part C. Medicare Advantage covers everything that Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) covers, plus extra benefits. These can include dental, hearing and vision health care services. Medicare Advantage usually includes Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage) as well. However, the prescription drugs covered by your plan depend on your insurance provider.

Like Medicare Supplement Insurance, Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies. Because of this, there’s usually an extra premium you have to pay. Make sure you ask your Medicare insurance provider about what your plan covers and any costs you should be aware of.

Learn More about Medicare

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to Medicare, but we’re here to help you pick the best coverage for you. Check out our free resources and articles to learn more.


1 Web page: Joining a Health or Drug Plan. Retrieved on January 23, 2019, from