Medicare Enrollment Periods

If you’re new to Medicare, you’ll need to know the Medicare Enrollment Periods.  There’s not just one; there are four.

No knowing the different enrollment periods can have financial consequences. It can also result in periods where you have no coverage.

medicare-enrollment-period-concept

Below we review the four Medicare Enrollment periods to keep you informed and protected.

Medicare Enrollment Periods

The four enrollment windows all Medicare Beneficiaries need to know about.

  • Initial enrollment period
  • Open enrollment period
  • Annual enrollment period
  • Special enrollment period

The Initial Medicare Enrollment Period is the Most Important

Your initial Medicare Enrollment period is the most important date for you to know as you approach your Medicare eligibility.

The initial enrollment period is a seven-month window that begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes your birthday month, and continues for the following three months.

During this period, you sign up for both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B, which make up your Original Medicare benefits.

Individuals who are still working and receiving health benefits from an employer should still enroll during the initial enrollment period.

Don’t Miss Your Initial Enrollment Window.

You’ve paid into Medicare throughout your working career; therefore, your Premiums for Medicare Part A are already paid for. You might as well start receiving free health care coverage. Even if you currently have health insurance coverage, Medicare will be the first layer of protection, and any additional coverage will fill in gaps that Medicare doesn’t.

More importantly, you must sign up during your initial Medicare Enrollment Period to avoid receiving a financial penalty. If you do no sign up during this time, you’ll accrue a 10% financial penalty to your Medicare Part B premiums that remain permanent for the entire time you receive Medicare benefits. It’s a very costly mistake to miss your Initial Medicare Enrollment Period.

To enroll in Medicare, you can contact Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or ask questions about whether you are eligible. You can also visit their website at www.socialsecurity.gov.

General Open Enrollment

If you miss your seven-month initial enrollment window, you can still sign up for Medicare during the general enrollment period. However, it will be with the 10% financial penalty as discussed above.

The General Open Enrollment period takes place each year from January 1st through March 31st.  This period is only for signing up for Original Medicare Part A and Part B.  Missing this window will result in not having Medicare coverage for the following year.

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period takes place every year between October 15th and December 7th.  This yearly period allows you to customize and expand your Medicare benefits by adding Medicare Part C, Medicare Part D, and Medigap policies for more comprehensive coverage.  These optional policies are sold and purchased through private insurance companies.  Policies last one year at a time, and therefore, you can make changes to Medicare Part C, Part D, and Medicare Supplements each year during the Annual Enrollment Period.

Medicare Special Enrollment Period

The Special Enrollment Period provides an additional enrollment window for specific situations without occurring a financial penalty.

For example:

Suppose you delay signing up during your initial Medicare Enrollment Period because you receive health benefits from your employer. In that case, you will receive a 63-day special enrollment window beginning the day of your retirement.

Another common situation in which special enrollment occurs is if you move states and currently own a Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Part D policy. If this happens, you will have a two-month window to enroll in a new plan.

These are the four Medicare Enrollment Periods that you need to be familiar with to maximize your Medicare benefits and keep money in your pocket.

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