Enrollment periods

Medicare enrollment periods

There are specific times when you can join, change, or drop a Medicare plan. In other words, you are not allowed to enroll or disenroll whenever you want. Here are the 5 Medicare enrollment periods:

1. Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP)

This is when you first become eligible for Medicare, which for most people is when they turn 65. You may sign up for Medicare Parts A and B as well as a Medicare health plan:

  • 3 months before your birthday month
  • Your birthday month
  • 3 months after your birthday month

This Initial Coverage Election Period also applies in the following scenarios, though with different enrollment time frames:

  • If you're newly eligible for Medicare because you have a disability and you're younger than 65. Sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan during the 7-month period that starts 3 months before your 25th month of getting Social Security or RRB disability benefits, includes your 25th month of getting disability benefit, and ends 3 months after your 25th month of getting disability benefits.
  • If you're already eligible for Medicare because of a disability and you turn 65. Sign up for Medicare Advantage during the 7 months surrounding your 65th birthday.
  • You have Medicare Part A coverage, and you get Part B for the first time by enrolling during the Part B General Enrollment Period (January 1 through March 31). Sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan from April 1 through June 30. Coverage becomes effective July 1.

2. Annual Enrollment Period

This is a short window of time each fall when all Medicare beneficiaries are allowed to change or drop a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D prescription drug plan. For 2018 it's October 15 through December 7. Coverage changes are effective January 1.

3. Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

Beginning in 2019, you can enroll in or make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan during the Open Enrollment Period (OEP), January 1 through March 31 every year.

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll have a one-time opportunity to:

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare, Part A and Part B
  • Sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan (if you return to Original Medicare). Most Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage already. Usually you can't enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug plan if you already have a Medicare Advantage plan, but there are some situations where you can. Call your Medicare Advantage plan if you have questions.
  • Drop your stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan.

4. Special Enrollment Periods

Special Enrollment Periods exist for beneficiaries who lose coverage because of certain qualifying events. For example, you can enroll outside of the standard enrollment periods if you:

  • Lose employer-sponsored or group coverage
  • Move out of your plan's service area
  • Are also eligible for Medicaid
  • Live in a nursing home

5. 5-Star Special Enrollment Period

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that oversees Medicare, measures health plan quality on a scale of 1 to 5 stars (a 5-Star rating is the highest) to help you make an informed decision about your coverage. You can switch to a 5-Star plan any time during the year under these guidelines:

  • You may switch one time. (After you switch, your next opportunity to make a change is during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period.)
  • Your current plan must be either Original Medicare (with or without a Medigap plan) or a Medicare Advantage plan.

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Learn about Medicare plans for group, state, and federal employees

If you are becoming eligible for Medicare and your employer offers a group retiree Medicare Advantage plan through Kaiser Permanente Washington, call us at 1-800-581-8252 or TTY WA Relay 711, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

PEBB and FEHB members can also find information online:

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Key Medicare enrollment dates

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)
October 15 through December 7

Medicare Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP)
65th birthday month + 3 months before and after

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP)
January 1 through March 31

Medicare Star Quality Ratings

Our Medicare Advantage health plan in Washington was rated 4.5 out of 5 stars for 2018. Our 4.5 out of 5 star rating is based on quality, service, and member satisfaction, so you get the peace of mind that comes with knowing you're getting high-quality care. 1

NCQA Quality Rating

Kaiser Permanente Washington Medicare Advantage (HMO) plan was rated 5 out of 5 in the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) Medicare Health Insurance Plan Ratings 2017-2018.2