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Your Guide to Health Insurance & Discounts

Medicare Enrollment Windows 


When You Can Enroll in Medicare for the First Time
Timing matters when you’re joining Medicare.  When you turn 65, or otherwise become eligible for Medicare, it’s important to understand how enrollment windows work.

Turning 65 soon? Three months before the month of your 65th birthday, you'll enter your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Your IEP lasts a total of 7 months. It includes the three months before your turn 65, the month you turn 65 and the three months after. During this period, you can enroll in Medicare Parts A, Part B or both – also known as Original Medicare – and you can also choose to enroll in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) or a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. 

Be sure to enroll in Medicare on-time as Medicare Part A, Part B and Part D have late enrollment premium penalties that could quickly add up.

Did you miss your Initial Enrollment Period? If so, you get another opportunity to enroll during the General Enrollment Period (GEP), which is the enrollment window open from January 1 – March 31 each year. During this period, you can enroll in Medicare Part A, Part B or both (also known as Original Medicare). Your coverage will begin on July 1 of the same year. You may also be eligible to next enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan between April 1 and June 30 of the same year. 

If you work past 65 or have health insurance through a spouse's employer, you may be able to delay enrolling in Medicare. In this situation, Medicare gives qualified individuals a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) of 8 months. Your SEP begins after you lose the employer coverage or leave your job, whichever happens first. During these 8 months you can enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B (also known as Original Medicare). But it's important to note, you will have only the first 2 months of your SEP to enroll in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan or a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan without penalty.

When You Can Make Medicare Coverage Changes 
After you get Medicare for the first time, there are a few time periods when you can make changes to your Medicare coverage. 

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), formerly known as the Open Enrollment Period, is open every year from October 15 – December 7. During this time, you can join, switch or drop a Medicare Advantage plan, or a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.

If you choose to drop your Medicare Advantage plan, you will return to Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B only) and lose any drug coverage or other health benefits the Medicare Advantage plan provided. If you return to Original Medicare, you can enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan for prescription drug coverage. 

Any changes you make will take effect January 1 the following year.

Medicare offers a special enrollment window to address special circumstances or life events. This Special Enrollment Period (SEP) is different from the one for people working past 65.  This SEP is designed only for individuals who have Medicare coverage and who experience a qualifying life event, such as moving to a new state or county where their current coverage is not available.

This SEP lasts 2 months, and during this time, you can enroll in a new Medicare Advantage plan or a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. You can alternatively decide to drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B only), in which case you can then enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan. 

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP), is a new enrollment window Medicare opened up in 2019. This window is only for people who are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.  It runs from January 1 - March 31 each year and during this time, Medicare Advantage plan members can switch to a new Medicare Advantage plan, or drop it and return to Original Medicare (Parts A and B).  If you return to Original Medicare, you can also add a stand-alone Part D plan during this time.

   

Sources: Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Medicare.gov. 

   

Still have questions about Medicare?  Learn more on AARP Medicare Question and Answer Tool or go to medicare.gov, the Official U.S. Government Site for Medicare.

Medicare Supplement

Medicare Supplement Insurance offers supplemental insurance coverage for those enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B.

Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage is Medicare Part C and often includes Part D prescription drug coverage in one plan.

Medicare Part D

Medicare Part D is a stand-alone prescription drug plan (PDP) that can help to cover the cost of your medications.

 

 

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