Time when an eligible person may choose to join or leave the Original Medicare Plan or a Medicare+Choice plan. There are four types of election periods in which you may join and leave Medicare health plans: Annual Election Period, Initial Coverage Election Period, Special Election Period, and Open Enrollment Period.

Annual Election Period: The Annual Election Period is the month of November each year. Medicare health plans enroll eligible beneficiaries into available health plans during the month of November each year. Starting in 2002, this is the only time in which all Medicare+Choice health plans will be open and accepting new members.

Initial Coverage Election Period: The three months immediately before you are entitled to Medicare Part A and enrolled in Part B. If you choose to join a Medicare health plan during your Initial Coverage Election Period, the plan must accept you. The only time a plan can deny your enrollment during this period is when it has reached its member limit. This limit is approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The Initial Coverage Election Period is different from the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP).

Special Election Period: You are given a Special Election Period to change Medicare+Choice plans or to return to Original Medicare in certain situations, which include: You make a permanent move outside the service area, the Medicare+Choice organization breaks its contract with you or does not renew its contract with CMS; or other exceptional conditions determined by CMS. The Special Election Period is different from the Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

Open Enrollment Period: If the Medicare health plan is open and accepting new members, you may join or enroll in it. If a health plan chooses to be open, it must allow all eligible beneficiaries to join or enroll.

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