Medicare will cover a significant portion of your healthcare expenses from age 65 onward, and so you want to be careful to enroll in the right plan to suit your needs. But did you know that you actually face multiple opportunities to make changes to your coverage over the years? This is definitely a good thing, considering healthcare needs and your budget will probably change over time. But you need to keep track of these opportunities, so that you can take advantage of them when needed.

September and October each year. Each fall, you will receive an Annual Notice of Change letter in the mail. Make sure to read over this letter carefully, because it will detail any changes to your plan for the upcoming year. Then you can begin to look at other plan options, in the event that you need to switch.

October 15 each year. The Annual Election Period begins. At this time, most Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and Part D (prescription) plans.

December 7 each year. This is the last day of the Annual Election Period. If you don’t make changes by this date, your current plan will automatically renew for the following coverage year.

January 1 each year. Your new coverage begins. The coverage year runs through December 31.

January 1 through March 31 each year. Medicare Advantage plan enrollees can take advantage of an Open Enrollment Period. If you’re enrolled in an Advantage plan (not Original Medicare), you can switch to a different Advantage plan. You can also drop it and go back to Original Medicare. If you do return to Original Medicare, you can elect a Part D plan as well.

If you need to make changes outside of Annual Election or Open Enrollment, you must qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Otherwise, plan decisions last throughout the coverage year. For more information, call one of our insurance brokers who specialize in Medicare plans. They can help you understand your options and obtain the right type of coverage for your situation.