Many potential Medicare beneficiaries are not sure when they can sign up for their Medicare coverage. However, it's important to be aware of these dates as Medicare enrollment is limited to a few specific timeframes each year. Knowing when to expect the 2023 open enrollment period, as well as other enrollment windows, can help ensure you get the coverage you need when you need it.
If you are ready to join, switch, or drop your Medicare coverage, here's what you need to know about the 2023 open enrollment period:
When Can You Enroll?
There are three specific enrollment windows for Medicare:
1. Initial Enrollment
This is the seven-month period that encompasses the three months prior to the month of your 65th birthday, your birthday month, and the three months that follow. This is often the best time to enroll in Medicare, whether you choose Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B) or a Medicare Advantage Plan (a Medicare-approved private insurance policy that bundles Parts A and B and often includes prescription drugs). That's because missing this window and going without coverage past the seven-month initial enrollment period will trigger a late enrollment penalty.
2. Open Enrollment
Each year, Medicare offers open enrollment from October 15 to December 7 for any beneficiaries who would like to join, switch or drop a Medicare coverage plan. If you enroll during that period, your coverage will start on January 1 of the following year. For the 2023 open enrollment period, any additions or changes to your Medicare enrollment made between October 15 and December 7, 2022, will go into effect on January 1, 2023.
3. Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment
Medicare beneficiaries who are already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan can change or drop their plan during this open enrollment period from January 1 to March 31 each year. While you can drop your Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare during this enrollment period, you cannot join an Advantage plan if you were not already enrolled in one. Coverage begins on the first day of the month after you request the change.
How to Prepare for the 2023 Open Enrollment Period
If you are already enrolled in a Medicare plan, your coverage will automatically renew as of the first of January. However, even if you are currently happy with your coverage, you may still want to consider making a change during the open enrollment period. That's because even if you stick with the same plan, the specific benefits or costs may change.
To get ready for the 2023 open enrollment period, start by setting up a calendar reminder for mid-October so you have some time set aside to make these important decisions.
From there, keep an eye out for the Annual Notice of Change from your plan provider. This document will explain any coverage or cost changes that will go into effect after the beginning of the year. Typically, you can expect to receive your annual notice of change sometime in September. If you have not received this document before the beginning of October, contact your plan provider.
You will also want to look over the annual Medicare & You Handbook. This resource explains Medicare enrollment, costs and coverage, and is updated each year. Having this handbook available can help you sort through the coverage options.
How To Get Help with Choosing
It's important to shop around to find the right plan for your needs, even if you are happy with your current plan. You may be able to save money or get more coverage for the same price from another provider, and the only way to know for sure is to shop around. However, if you're feeling overwhelmed by the array of options, there are some free resources that can help you narrow down your choices:
- State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP): Each SHIP program offers counseling to help beneficiaries find the right program for their needs.
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: This federal agency has a help line you can call at 800-633-4227, as well as live online chat available from its website.
- Medicare Rights Center: This non-profit agency has been helping beneficiaries navigate Medicare for more than three decades. You can reach a counselor via their national helpline at 800-333-4114.
The Bottom Line
Know when 2023 open enrollment is so you can be prepared, regardless if you want to keep your plan or change to something new. Prepare for open enrollment ahead of time, and take advantage of the available resources to help ensure you get the right coverage at the best price for your needs. Your 2023 self will be glad you did.