Medicare enrollment demystified: 10 things you must know before signing up

Fact-checked with


At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here’s an explanation for

Which bank should I choose?

Get personalized bank recommendations in 3 easy steps.

Since 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law, Medicare has become so complicated that several books explaining the program’s intricacies have been published, from “Medicare for Dummies” to “Making the Most of Medicare: A Guide for Baby Boomers” to the new “Get What’s Yours for Medicare” by Philip Moeller.

“Medicare should be a transparent and easy-to-use program but has evolved into an opaque, complex and forbidding entity that totally confuses many seniors and their families,” says Moeller.

Time is almost up for the current enrollment period for Medicare. Wednesday, Dec. 7 is the last day for seniors already in the program to change their Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription drug plans.

The other enrollment periods are:

  • Jan. 1-March 31: Each year, seniors who overlooked enrolling in the period around their 65th birthday can sign up for Part A and/or Part B.
  • Jan. 1-Feb. 14: This marks a “disenrollment period,” when seniors can switch from Medicare Advantage to original Medicare.

Bankrate checked with Moeller and other insurance experts to shed some light on the many parts of this important health care program for seniors. We also provide several online resources where you can learn more.