Medicare plans undergo changes annually, encompassing costs, coverage, and networks. The pivotal Medicare Open Enrollment Period, also known as the “annual election period” or “annual enrollment period,” unfolds from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. Changes take effect on Jan. 1 for requests submitted by Dec. 7. While this period is the primary window for plan selection, additional opportunities arise throughout the year during “open enrollment” or “special enrollment” periods.
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP):
For many individuals, Medicare’s Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) marks the primary opportunity to enroll in Original Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). Even if you’re under 65 and already receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, automatic enrollment in Original Medicare may occur. Nevertheless, having an IEP empowers you to make crucial Medicare coverage decisions during this significant timeframe.
Dates: The IEP spans from 3 months before you turn 65, through your birthday month, and concludes 3 months after.
During your Initial Enrollment Period, you can:
- Enroll in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B)
- Choose to delay Medicare Part B if you already possess creditable coverage
- Explore enrollment in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan
- Consider enrolling in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan
- Upon eligibility for Original Medicare, you also gain eligibility for Medicare Advantage (Part C). The initial enrollment period for Medicare Advantage is referred to as the Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP).
- Failure to sign up for Medicare when initially eligible may result in late enrollment penalties.
- If you’re still employed upon Medicare eligibility, delaying enrollment in Part B could qualify you for a Special Enrollment Period later on. Discover more about the optimal timing for signing up for Medicare if you continue working past the age of 65.
Medicare Open Enrollment Period (Oct. 15–Dec. 7):
During this time, you have the flexibility to:
- Switch between Original Medicare and a Medicare Advantage plan or vice versa
- Enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan
- Change from a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage to one without or vice versa
- Adjust your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan
- Disenroll from a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan
- Coverage begins on Jan. 1 for requests submitted by Dec. 7.
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (Jan. 1–March 31):
For those already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period allows one change within the period. You can:
- Switch to another Medicare Advantage plan with or without drug coverage
- Revert to Original Medicare and, if necessary, add a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan
- Changes take effect the first day of the month following the enrollment request.
General Enrollment Period (Jan. 1–March 31):
If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) or weren’t automatically enrolled, the General Enrollment Period is your opportunity to sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B.
- You can sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B during this period.
- Coverage begins on July 1, and a late enrollment penalty may apply.
Special Enrollment Period (Varies):
A Special Enrollment Period arises when specific life events occur, allowing adjustments to your Medicare coverage.
- Qualifying events include losing existing coverage, moving, changes in your Medicare plan, gaining other healthcare coverage, or changes in eligibility.
- The length of your SEP varies depending on the qualifying event.
- Generally, a SEP lasts 2–3 months, with your SEP for Medicare Part B lasting 8 months after employer health coverage ends.
During a Special Enrollment Period, you can:
- Sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B if coverage was delayed due to employment.
- Make changes to your Medicare coverage, including Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage.
Do I Need to Re-enroll Every Year?
If you’re already enrolled in Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, automatic renewal occurs. Review the renewal and enrollment details of common Medicare plans for a comprehensive understanding.
Feel free to contact us to speak with a licensed healthcare agent with any questions you may have and no obligations to us.