Rolling Enrollment Periods
Enrolling in Medicare can only happen at certain times. Here are the four enrollment periods:
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
If you aren’t yet receiving Social Security, which would have automatically enrolled you in Medicare, this is your first opportunity to sign up for Medicare on your own. You don’t have to wait until you turn 65!
Your 7-Month IEP Window
- Starting 3 months before you turn 65
- Your birthday month
- 3 months after your birthday month
Avoid the penalty
If you miss this seven-month Initial Enrollment Period, you may have to wait to sign up and pay a monthly late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage. The penalty goes up the longer you wait. You may also have to pay a penalty if you have to pay a Part A premium, also called “Premium-Part A.”
General Enrollment Period (GEP) (January 1-March 31 each year)
Sign-up for Part A and/or Part B occurs between January 1 and March 31 each year. Your coverage starts July 1.
To enroll, both of these conditions apply:
- You didn’t sign up when you were first eligible.
- You aren’t eligible for a Special Enrollment period (see Special Enrollment Period)
Key Point: If you’re paying a premium for Part A and you enroll during the GEP, you may also owe a late-enrollment penalty.
Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
If you had a special situation or extenuating circumstance that precluded you from signing up for Medicare during the Initial or General Enrollment Period, you may still be able to enroll in Medicare during the Special Enrollment Period. Here are examples of life events that may qualify you for the Special Enrollment Period.
- You or your spouse were still working and covered by an employer-sponsored Group Health Plan
- You moved outside of your Medicare Plan’s service area
- You lost your Medicaid coverage
- You moved into a nursing home
- Your provider lost its Medicare contract
Speak with your BetterCare Medicare specialist to discuss your unique circumstance that may qualify you for SEP enrollment.
Key Question: What if my employment has ended but I’m still receiving healthcare coverage through COBRA?
Your 8-month Special Enrollment Period starts when you stop working, even if you choose COBRA or other coverage that’s not Medicare.
Annual Enrollment Period (October 15-December 7)
Each year, Medicare health and drug plans can make changes, affecting cost, coverage, and what providers and pharmacies are in their networks. In response, you can either retain or change coverage for the following year to ensure your Medicare plan meets your needs.
You can make changes to your coverage and enroll in a Medicare plan each year, from October 15 to December 7.
Here are just some of the changes you can make:
Enroll in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) or stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan
Switch to a different Medicare Advantage or stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan
Drop a Medicare Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare (Parts A & B). (If you do this, you may also need to get a Part D prescription drug plan if your former Medicare Advantage plan included drug coverage.
Replace a Medicare Advantage plan with a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan
If you choose to make a change during the Annual Enrollment Period, your new coverage won’t begin until
Medigap Open Enrollment Period
The best time to buy a Medigap policy is during your six-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period. You generally will get better prices and more choices among policies. During that time, you can buy any Medigap policy sold in your state, and you will face no health questions during your qualifying window. This period automatically starts the first month you have Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) and you’re 65 or older. After this enrollment period, you may not be able to buy a Medigap policy. If you’re able to buy one, it may cost more due to past or present health problems.
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (January 1-March 31)
Second thoughts about your Medicare Advantage Plan? You can switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan or switch to Original Medicare (and join a separate Medicare drug plan) once during this time.
What you can do
- Switch from your current Medicare Advantage Plan (with or without drug coverage) to another Medicare Advantage Plan (with or without drug coverage).
- Drop your Medicare Advantage Plan and return to Original Medicare. You’ll also be able to join a separate Medicare drug plan.
What you can’t do
- Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.
- Join a Medicare drug plan if you’re in Original Medicare.
- Switch from one Medicare drug plan to another if you’re in Original Medicare
If you switch, your coverage will start the first day of the month after you ask to join the plan.