Medicare Enrollment Periods – There are more than a handful of enrollment periods that relate to Medicare. Even if you’re already enrolled in Medicare, you’ll need to keep track of the Medicare enrollment periods that apply to you.
You may not use every enrollment period available, but you should have an idea of what each one is so you can schedule your enrollments accordingly.
Initial Enrollment Period
Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is a 7-month window around your 65th birthday. You can begin enrolling in Medicare three full months prior to your 65th birthday month and have until three full months after your birthday. For example, if your birthday is on April 12, your IEP runs from January 1 through July 31. As long as you enroll before your birthday month, your coverage will start on the first day of the month you turn 65. Your coverage can start no earlier than the first of your birthday month.
There’s a very similar-sounding enrollment period called the Initial Coverage Enrollment Period or ICEP. It relates to enrollment in Medicare Advantage. Many times, it runs concurrently with your IEP. However, if you decide to delay your Medicare Part B enrollment, you’ll have another ICEP when you enroll later.
Special Enrollment Period
One of the most common reasons individuals qualify for a SEP is because they delayed Medicare enrollment due to having other credible coverage. These days, many people are working past the age of 65 – or have a younger spouse who carries the insurance. As long as that insurance is credible, you can delay Medicare enrollment with no penalties. And, when you do decide to transition to Medicare, you’ll be eligible for an 8-month Special Enrollment Period beginning on the last day of your employer’s coverage. You should apply prior to the end of that coverage, so there are no gaps in your health insurance.
Other Special Enrollment Periods are helpful for when you need to change your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plans. There is a long list of qualifying events, but we’ve listed a few of the most common here.
- Moving outside the plan’s service area
- Your current plan leaves your area
- You move into or out of a nursing home or other institution
- You lose or gain Medicaid benefits
- A 5-star plan enters your area
If you think you might qualify for a SEP, reach out to one of our Medicare advisors and explain your unique situation. You may be eligible to switch your Part C or Part D plan.
General Enrollment Period
The General Enrollment Period (GEP) occurs annually from January 1 through March 31. If you did not enroll in Medicare during your IEP and you were not eligible for a SEP, this is the only time you may enroll.
If you enroll during the GEP, your coverage will not begin until July 1. In addition, it’s likely that if you’re enrolling during this time, you’ll be paying Medicare penalties for the late enrollment. It depends on how long you postponed enrollment.
Annual Enrollment Period
The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is probably the most talked about and most advertised Medicare enrollment period. If you are enrolled in either a Part C or Part D plan, which almost every Medicare beneficiary is, you cannot miss this enrollment period. Doing so could cost you hundreds of dollars and could significantly impact your coverage.
AEP occurs annually from October 15 to December 7. Any changes you make to your current plans will go into effect on January 1 of the upcoming year. The reason AEP is so important is that Part C and Part D plans can (and often do) change each year. You could see a change in premiums, benefits, networks, etc. You may be perfectly happy with your plan one year and then dislike it the next. In addition, new plans come into the market every year. It’s entirely possible that you’ll find a new plan that works even better than your old one.
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
As the name implies, the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP) is for beneficiaries who are already enrolled in Medicare Advantage. It occurs from January 1 through March 31. During this time, enrollees can make a one-time change to their current MA plan. They can either choose another MA plan, or they can switch back to Original Medicare (Parts A and B).
Need help planning your Medicare enrollment? We’ve got you covered! Our Medicare advisors will create a customized timeline for your enrollment process so you can be sure you won’t miss any deadlines. Call us today to speak with one of our licensed insurance agents.