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Is enrollment in a Medicare Advantage plan automatic or do I need to enroll directly with the plan?

En español | When you first sign up for Medicare, the Social Security Administration (which handles Medicare enrollment) automatically enrolls you in the original Medicare program. If you prefer to be in a private Medicare Advantage managed care plan (such as an HMO or PPO) you can join one during these time frames: 

  • Your initial enrollment period (IEP), which runs for seven months, of which the fourth is the month of your 65th birthday
  • A special enrollment period (SEP), which you’re entitled to if you delay Part B enrollment beyond age 65 because you have health insurance from an employer for which you or your spouse actively works
  • The annual open enrollment period (Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year) when you can switch from original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • A general enrollment period (Jan. 1 to March 31 each year), if you missed your deadline for signing up for Medicare during your IEP or an SEP. In this situation Medicare coverage will not begin until July 1 of the same year in which you enroll. You can sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan during April, May or June to begin receiving coverage under it on July 1. 

You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan in your area by using the online plan-finder program on Medicare’s website, at Or you can call Medicare at 800-633-4227 (TTY: 877-486-2048) for contact information.

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