Medicare Enrollment Periods – Whether you are just starting your transition into Medicare or you’re a long-time beneficiary, you’ll want to make sure you’re aware of the different enrollment periods. Even though your plans will automatically renew after enrollment (as long as you pay your premiums), you’ll want to pay attention to enrollment periods that allow you to make changes to your plan.
Initial Enrollment Period
Everyone has a unique Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) based on their birthday. Your IEP begins three full months before your 65th birthday month and ends three full months after it. If your birthday is on September 25, your IEP begins June 1 and ends December 31. As long as you enroll before your birthday month, your coverage will go into effect on the first day of that month. However, if your birthday is on the first, your coverage starts one month prior.
To avoid Medicare penalties, you should enroll during your IEP. Otherwise, you could face late-enrollment penalties for Part B and Part D. However, if you have other credible coverage in place, you may postpone enrollment without penalty.
During your IEP, you can enroll in Parts A and B, as well as any additional coverage like Medicare Advantage (Part C), a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan, and a prescription drug plan (Part D).
Special Enrollment Period
Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs) can apply to a variety of things. You must experience a qualifying life event to be granted a SEP.
In regards to Original Medicare (Parts A and B), the most common reason someone qualifies for a SEP is due to termination of their credible coverage. When that credible coverage ends, you’ll have a SEP for two months. However, to avoid a lapse in coverage, it’s best to begin your Medicare enrollment prior to the termination date.
There are a great number of Special Enrollment Periods specifically for Medicare Advantage. Some of these can also be applied to Part D. A partial list of qualifying events include:
- You moved to a new zip code
- You moved into or out of an institution
- You gained or lost Medicaid eligibility
- Your current plan left the area
- Your current plan became insolvent
- Your current insurance carrier broke Medicare rules
- You were diagnosed with a chronic condition
- You chose Medicare Advantage for the first time and want to move back to Original Medicare (within the first year of having the plan)
General Enrollment Period
The General Enrollment Period (GEP) extends from January 1 through March 31 every year. If you did not apply for Original Medicare during your IEP and did not qualify for a SEP, you’ll need to enroll during the GEP. If you enroll during this time, your coverage will not begin until July 1 of the current year. You can also make elections for Medicare Advantage, Medigap, and Part D during the GEP.
Beneficiaries who enroll during the General Enrollment Period will likely face Medicare penalties for Part B, Part D, or both. In addition, because their coverage will not begin until July 1, they may need to find temporary insurance, so they are not left without coverage.
Annual Enrollment Period
The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is probably the most advertised enrollment period in Medicare, and for a good reason. It is crucial for every Medicare beneficiary to participate in AEP. Why? Every beneficiary is enrolled (or should be enrolled!) in either a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan. Both types of plans change each year. It could be a change in premium, benefits, networks, etc. A plan that works great for you now may not work as well next year. In addition, new plans enter the market every year, so you may find one that works even better for you.
AEP runs from October 15 – December 7. You may change your Medicare Advantage or Part D plan during this time, and that change will go into effect on January 1. You may also elect to switch from Medicare Advantage back to Original Medicare or vice versa.
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
Lastly, let’s discuss the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period or MA OEP. This enrollment period applies only to those beneficiaries who are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. They have one opportunity to switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan. Any changes go into effect the following month.
Not sure which enrollment period you qualify for? Call and chat with one of our Medicare experts. Our licensed agents will help you determine if you are eligible to change plans now or tell you when your next enrollment period will be.