Medicare Enrollment Periods

Whether you’re approaching your 65th birthday, looking for the annual election period, or otherwise wondering about Medicare enrollment periods, we have nearly all of them listed here. 

We’ll detail what you can do during these periods and when they are.

Initial Enrollment Period

The first time you become eligible for Medicare is known as your initial enrollment period.

If you’re becoming eligible due to age, your initial enrollment period begins three months before the month of your 65th birthday and ends three months after your 65th birthday month. 

This happens with one exception: if your birthday is on the first of the month. This will cause your enrollment period to begin one month early. For example: if your birthday is November 1, your enrollment period will begin July 1 and your Medicare will begin one month early as well — October 1. 

During your initial enrollment period, you can enroll in Original Medicare (Part A and B), Medicare Advantage plan, a Medicare Supplement, or Medicare Part D.

In fact, this is the best time to get a supplement or Part D plan. 

You can get a Medicare Supplement during your initial enrollment period with no health questions asked. 

Also, signing up for a Part D plan during IEP helps you to avoid any late enrollment penalties.

What if I miss my initial enrollment period?

If you fail to sign up for Part B on time, you will pay an extra 10% premium for every 12-month period you should have had Part B. 

The premium for Part B in 2020 is $144.60. So, you’ll pay an additional $14.46 each month for the rest of your life. 

In addition, if you do not have creditable prescription drug coverage and choose to sign up for a Part D plan later, you’ll have a late penalty for that plan too. 

Part D’s penalty is 1% per consecutive month that you went without coverage and then rounded to the nearest 10 cents. The national base premium is $32.74 per month in 2020. That’s an additional $3.90 per month if you went without coverage for one year.

Annual Enrollment Period

The annual enrollment period runs from October 15 to December 7 every year. 

This is the time Medicare beneficiaries can enroll, change, or drop their Medicare Advantage or Part D plans.

Medicare Special Enrollment Period

If you have a qualifying life event, you may be eligible for a special enrollment period. 

A few examples, but certainly not all, instances you’d qualify for a special enrollment period are: 

  • If you move outside the plan’s service area
  • Unintentional loss of coverage
  • You receive both Medicare and Medicaid benefits
  • Have a baby
  • Get married

Be sure to check with a licensed Medicare insurance agent if you think you might qualify. 

During a special enrollment period you can: 

  • Return to Original Medicare without a penalty
  • Depending on your eligibility, sign up for a Medicare Supplement with no medical questions
  • Purchase a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Purchase a Part D plan
  • Switch your Advantage plan or Part D plan
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

During the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period you can switch to another Advantage plan (only once) or return to Original Medicare. If you return to Original Medicare, you can choose a Part D plan too.

This Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period is from January 1 to March 31.

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