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Section 5: ready to enroll 

How to Enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan

These all-in-one plans may help pay for services original Medicare doesn’t cover, but your choices may be limited






• When to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan

• 9 steps to sign up for Medicare Advantage

• How to pay for Medicare Advantage

If you’re interested in an all-in-one plan, Medicare Advantage, also known as Part C, may be your best choice.

These plans, which are sold by private insurers, bundle together Parts A and B and usually Part D prescription drug coverage. Some help pay for certain services that original Medicare doesn’t cover, such as routine dental, hearing and vision care.

Most Medicare Advantage plans have provider networks, so you’ll have to ask your doctors if they’re part of a plan’s network. Be aware that the provider networks change frequently, so check at least once a year to make sure that your preferred physicians, including specialists, remain in network. Coverage for out-of-network doctors varies.




You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during the seven-month initial enrollment period surrounding your 65th birthday after you’ve enrolled in Parts A and B.

You can also sign up for a plan during the annual open enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year. (To enroll during this time, be sure you’ve already signed up for Parts A and B.) Your coverage will start Jan. 1. You may be able to sign up at other times if you qualify for a special enrollment period.

You also can also switch between Medicare Advantage plans or go back to original Medicare during the annual Medicare Advantage open enrollment period from Jan. 1 to March 31.

Keep in mind that if you decide to return to original Medicare, you may have a difficult time getting a Medigap policy. Insurers in most states may deny coverage or charge a higher premium if you have a preexisting condition and more than six months have passed since you originally enrolled in Part B.




Take these steps:


1. Use the Plan Finder tool at to compare Medicare Advantage plan options in your area and get information about costs and coverage, including costs for your prescription medications.

a screenshot of the main page of the find a medicare plan website with the title explore your medicare coverage options and "continue without logging in" circled in red

 You can either log into your online Medicare account go to the Continue without logging in box to enter your ZIP code and select your county. Then choose Medicare Advantage Plan from the Select a plan type dropdown menu.

Now indicate whether you get help with your medical expenses. If you’re not sure, you can find out by logging in to your Medicare account.

screenshot of medicare dot gov website with the question do you get help with your costs from one of these programs on the screen

If you don’t receive any help, you’ll be asked if you want to see your drug costs when you compare plans. Click Yes so you can get a sense of how much you would spend with each plan.


5. Enter the names of your medications. Be sure to include ones you take regularly to get a good estimate of ongoing costs. You’ll also need to select the dosage and quantity and indicate how frequently you need to refill your prescriptions. To add another medication, click Add Another Drug. When you’re finished, click Done Adding Drugs.

screenshot of the medicare dot gov webpage where you enter your prescription drug names into a search field

Choose up to five pharmacies where you want to fill your prescriptions. Many plans charge lower copayments for preferred pharmacies. You can see how plans work with the pharmacies and what your copayments would be for each one. Enter the names of the pharmacies you use or search by your address or ZIP code.

Every plan with drug coverage offers mail-order prescriptions. They can be less expensive, so some people select this option as one of their pharmacy choices. When you’re finished selecting pharmacies, click Done.

7. You’ll receive a list of Medicare Advantage plans in your area. You can filter them according to the coverage you’re looking for.

For instance, select Plan Benefits and check Vision, Dental and Hearing. Under Drug Coverage, you can choose Includes drug coverage. And by clicking on Special Needs Plans, you can indicate whether you’re looking for a plan that provides coverage for a chronic or disabling condition, such as diabetes or end-stage renal disease.


You can also sort your list. The default is Lowest drug + premium cost, but you can change that to Lowest yearly drug deductible, Lowest health plan deductible or Lowest monthly premium.

If a plan looks enticing, before committing be sure to research the types of procedures and items that are covered, such as eyeglasses and hearing aids. It's also important to know what you’ll be required to pay and whether you’re limited in your choices of providers. This way, you won’t have any surprises when you use the plan.

screenshot of a medicare advantage plan estimate with the fields for plan benefits, drug coverage, special needs plans and sort plans by circled in red

You’ll get an estimate of each plan’s costs for your medications. You can see the premiums, deductibles, copayments and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.


Click Plan Details for more information about coverage and out-of-pocket expenses. These can include copayments for doctor appointments, diagnostic tests, X-rays, emergency care, inpatient and outpatient hospital coverage, physical and occupational therapy and mental health services.


To find out if your doctors are in a plan’s network, visit the plan’s website. When you click Plan Details, you’ll see a Plan website link at the top of the listing. There’s also a link to View Provider Network Directory under doctor services, which can direct you a plan’s website.


9. To sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan, click Enroll. You’ll need your Medicare number and the date your Parts A and B coverage started. You may be able to enroll by calling 800-MEDICARE.

To sign up directly with the insurance company, click on Plan Details and look for the plan’s phone number and website. You can also request an application and mail it. An insurance agent may be able to help you enroll.

For help signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan, contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program.




After you’ve signed up for a plan, you may be required to pay a monthly premium to the insurance company, although many plans don’t charge one. You’ll also pay your Part B premiums to Medicare. To find out if you qualify for financial assistance for Parts A and B, see How to Get Help Paying for Medicare.

Mark your calendar for Medicare’s open enrollment period, from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year. This is the time you can switch Medicare Advantage plans. You can also switch from one MA plan to another during Medicare Advantage's open enrollment period, which runs from Jan. 1 to March 31.

Even if you’re satisfied with your coverage, it’s a good idea to go to to compare available plans in your area. Sometimes plans change their coverage, costs and provider networks every year.

How to Get Help Paying for Medicare
How to Enroll in a Part D Plan