Medicare, Social Security, and Insurance

10/25/2023 | By Donna LeValley

It’s that time of year again, with Medicare open enrollment, time to make important decisions about your Medicare coverage.

There are two ways to get your Medicare coverage: Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and Medicare Advantage. (Medicare Advantage, often called Part C, offers plans from private insurers and often limit patients to doctors or other providers in a plan’s network.)

With the start of open enrollment, you can now shop for the plan that suits your needs and lifestyle best.

When is open enrollment?

Medicare open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year. During this period, you can switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or vice versa. You can also choose a new Advantage plan or new Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. Coverage will begin in 2024.

When is general enrollment?

If you don’t like the selection you made during open enrollment, you can make a change during Medicare’s general enrollment period, which runs from January 1 to March 31 each year. Any changes you make will be effective the first day of the month after the plan gets your request.

During this time, if you didn’t sign up for Medicare when you turned 65 and you don’t qualify for a special enrollment period, you can enroll in Parts A and B. Medicare Advantage beneficiaries can also switch to a new Advantage plan or back to Original Medicare.

What is special enrollment?

Woman working at her laptop. Anyone on Medicare is at risk of Medicare fraud and must watch out for scammers who will exploit beneficiaries’ benefits and U.S. taxpayers.

After your Initial Enrollment Period (running a few months before and after you turn 65), you may have a chance to sign up for Medicare during a special enrollment period. If you experience a qualifying life event, you may be able to enroll or change a selection and possibly do so without having to pay a late enrollment penalty. Qualifying life events include moving to a new locale not served by your Medicare Advantage plan or a loss of employer-sponsored health insurance.

Need help comparing plans and costs? Medicare provides a tool at to help you compare the cost of different Medicare Advantage plans, Part D prescription plans and Medigap policies. (Medigap helps pay the medical bills that aren’t covered by Original Medicare.)

The tool also will tell you the out-of-pocket maximum and what your specific medications would cost for different Medicare Advantage plans while giving you price ranges for medigap plans available in your area. And you can enter details about your specific medications and see what these would cost under your Part D options.

Donna LeValley is a staff writer at For more on this and similar money topics, visit

©2023 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Find similar Medicare articles on Seniors Guide to make the right decision:

Selecting the Right Medicare Plan

Protect Yourself from Medicare Fraud

Donna LeValley