You get a special time to enroll when life changes cause you to lose your existing coverage.
A Medicare Special Election Period (SEP) allows you to enroll in Medicare or change your Medicare coverage outside of your Initial Enrollment Period or other enrollment periods without penalty. There are different SEPs to cover different circumstances.
Special Election Period: Employer Health Coverage Ending
You may enroll in Original Medicare (Parts A and B) up to 8 months after your employment or employer health insurance ends, whichever comes first. This is true if you are covered under your spouse's employer coverage, as well. You may also qualify for an SEP to enroll in Original Medicare while your employer coverage is still active.
You can enroll a Medicare Advantage (Part C) or prescription drug (Part D) plan up to two months after your employment or employer health insurance ends. Otherwise, you can switch your coverage during Medicare Open Enrollment, October 15 through December 7.
COBRA and retiree health plans are not considered employer health coverage. You are not eligible for this SEP when COBRA coverage ends. However, you may be eligible for a different SEP.
Special Election Period: Qualifying Event
You can make changes to your Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare prescription drug coverage when certain events happen in your life. Some examples include:
- You change where you live.
- You lose your current coverage.
- You have a chance to get other coverage.
- Your plan changes its contract with Medicare.
- Other special situations.
In general, your SEP will begin the first day of the month that the qualifying event takes place. It ends two months later.
What can you do during Special Election Periods?
What you can do depends on the specific SEP you qualify for. For more information about SEPs, call toll-free 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. TTY users can call toll-free 1-877-486-2048. Or visit Medicare.gov.
What do you want to do next?
Or learn about Medicare coverage choices