Special enrollment! Initial enrollment! General enrollment! Late enrollment penalties!
Confused about how and when to enroll in Medicare? You’re not alone. There are so many different terms surrounding Medicare enrollment it can be hard to figure out which one applies to you. It is important to understand the timelines and associated late enrollment penalties if those timelines are missed, and that’s why we’re here today.
We know how tricky and overwhelming enrolling in Medicare can feel. You don’t need to figure it all out on your own! Contact Medicare Dana to walk you through the entire Medicare enrollment process. We specialize in making the complex Medicare program easy to understand and hold your hand the entire time.
When you work with me, you’ll have peace of mind that you:
- Enrolled on time.
- Enrolled in the right program for you.
- Are getting a competitive price for your Medicare program.
When Should You Enroll in Medicare?
There are four important enrollment periods to know about with Medicare, and there are things to know about when your coverage starts with each one. This is our quick Q & A guide to Medicare Enrollment!
What is the Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)?
The Initial Enrollment Period, (IEP) is a 7-month period when you are first eligible for Medicare. IEP starts 3 months before you turn 65 and ends 3 months after you turn 65.
What to Know About IEP: Your coverage start date depends on which month you enroll.
What is the Medicare General Enrollment Period (GEP)?
If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), you can sign up during Medicare’s General Enrollment Period (GEP). The Medicare General Enrollment Period runs every year from January 1–March 31.
What to Know About GEP: Your coverage start date will be July 1.
What is the Medicare Special Enrollment Period (SEP)?
In some situations, you can delay Original Medicare enrollment and sign up through a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). If you are eligible for a SEP (likely because of your employer sponsored healthcare), you can sign up for Part A and or Part B during this time.
What to know about Medicare SEP: The timing of your SEP may vary, depending on your qualifying situation; however, once you are eligible for the SEP, it will generally last for eight months.
What is the Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP)?
Medicare Annual Election takes place from October 15 – December 7 each year. The Annual Election Period, AEP, is the one time of year you can make changes to your Part D Prescription drug plan. This is also a time of year you can make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan.
What to know about AEP: You coverage start date will be January 1.
Medicare Advantage is Different
If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan (with or without drug coverage) you also have the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, from January 1 – March 31 each year. During these 3 months, you can:
- Switch to another Medicare Advantage plan (with or without drug coverage), or
- Disenroll in Medicare Advantage and return to Original Medicare.
- If you switch to Original Medicare during this period, you’ll have until March 31 to also join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to add drug coverage.
Your MA plan switch or disenrollment becomes effective the first day of the following month. For example, if you switch or disenroll from your MA plan in January, your change becomes effective February 1. If you switch or disenroll in February, your change becomes effective March 1.
If you’re returning to Original Medicare, you will want to enroll in a Part D plan as close to the time of your MA plan disenrollment as possible in order to avoid any gap in drug coverage. For example, if you disenroll from your MA plan on January 28 and enroll in a Part D plan on February 1, you would return to Original Medicare on February 1, but wouldn’t have drug coverage until March 1.
Remember, if you are switching or disenrolling from your MA plan, you must continue to use providers and services in your current plan’s network until the date your switch or disenrollment becomes effective. Otherwise, the plan will not pay and Medicare will not pay, because your MA plan requires you to use providers in your plan’s network.
Help with Medicare Enrollment Periods
Many people mistakenly think they can sign up for Medicare whenever they get around to it. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complex than this! Mark your calendars now, and start talking with a Medicare expert about six months before you turn 65 years old. It can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars!
Your healthcare needs change over time. You may require a new prescription drug or be taken off of one. You may need to find a specialist to help with a new condition or disease, or you may be in remission from cancer! These are all reasons to pay attention to the Medicare enrollment dates, and especially the Annual Election Period dates, to make necessary changes to your plan. The Medicare system does work quite well if you have the right knowledge and resources at your fingertips to make better decisions!
Let Medicare Dana help you with your Medicare enrollment today. We’ve helped hundreds of other Medicare-age folks like you find the right plan at an affordable price.