Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage

Frequently Asked Questions

11. When can a person sign up for a Medicare drug plan (Part D)?

Generally there are three times when people can sign up for Medicare prescription drug coverage. The best time to sign up for Medicare Part D is during the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which is 7 months long. The IEP covers the 3 months before the month a person becomes entitled to Medicare, the month of the entitlement, and the three months following.

There is an Annual Coordinated Election Period (AEP) sometimes called Part D "Fall Open Enrollment." The AEP is November 15 through December 31 each year. During the AEP people can join, change, or drop prescription drug coverage. The change will be effective January 1 of the following year.

There are special situations that give a person a Special Enrollment Period (SEP), such as a permanent move out of the plan's service area, being eligible for the extra help (low-income subsidy), or moving into, residing in, or leaving a long-term care facility (like a nursing home). The time period of the SEP depends on the reason for the Special Enrollment Period.

Some people with Medicare have a continuous Special Enrollment Period, including those who qualify for the extra help and those who live in a long-term care facility. They can change plans at any time, with the new plan coverage starting the first day of the next month.

(Watch the video for important information about avoiding Medicare Part D late enrollment penalties. To enlarge the video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner. To reduce the video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)

For more information about Medicare Part D, visit and click on “Drug Coverage” (Part D) tab You may also call 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.