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Medicare Enrollment Periods

Medicare has several enrollment periods, some for Original Medicare, some for Medicare supplements, and others for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans. It is crucial to know the timing of each enrollment period since missing them can result in higher fees and the inability to switch plans.

Initial Enrollment Period

The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is the first enrollment period most people are eligible for. It lasts for seven months, starting three months before the individual’s 65th birthday and ending three months after it.

Special Enrollment Period

Those who experience qualifying life events such as moving or losing health coverage can enroll in Medicare during the Special Enrollment Period (SEP), which lasts for 60 days after the event. During this time, they can enroll in whichever part of Medicare they qualify for.

Initial Coverage Election Period

The Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP) is the first opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in a Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan. It coincides with the IEP if the beneficiary enrolls in Part B at age 65. Otherwise, the ICEP begins three months before the Part B effective date.

General Enrollment Period

The General Enrollment Period takes place annually from January 1 to March 31. It is for those who missed their IEP and did not qualify for an SEP. However, late enrollment penalties may apply.

Other Types of Enrollment Periods

Individuals who are already enrolled in Original Medicare have additional enrollment periods to consider.

Medigap Open Enrollment

Beneficiaries become eligible for the Medigap (or Medicare supplement) Open Enrollment Period on the first day of the month in which they turn 65, provided their Part B coverage is effective. It is advisable to enroll in a Medicare supplement during this period since it is one of the few times when beneficiaries have guaranteed issue rights to a Medigap plan.

Annual Election Period

If a Medicare beneficiary did not enroll in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan during their ICEP, they can choose to enroll during the Annual Election Period (AEP). The AEP takes place from October 15 to December 7 each year, and any changes made during this period will become effective on January 1 of the following year.

During the AEP, beneficiaries can make a number of changes to their Medicare coverage.

Individuals can:

  • Switch from Parts A and B to a Part C plan
  • Switch from Part C back to Parts A and B
  • Switch from one Part C plan to another
  • Switch from one Part D plan to another

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