Medicare Enrollment Periods
There are many enrollment periods associated with Medicare. Some are strictly for Original Medicare, some are for Medicare supplements, and others are for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans. Since missing an enrollment period can cause increased fees and the inability to change plans, knowing when each enrollment period occurs is important.
Initial Enrollment Period
The very first enrollment period that most individuals are eligible for is the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). It begins three months prior to their 65th birthday and ends three months after that birthday, for a total period of seven months.
Special Enrollment Period
Not everyone qualifies for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). To be eligible, the individual must have had a qualifying life event, which includes things like moving to a new coverage area or losing other health insurance (like that from an employer).
The SEP window lasts 60 days following the qualifying event. During this time you can enroll whichever aspect of Medicare falls under the SEP.
For example, if an individual continued working past 65 and chose to delay enrollment in Parts B and D because they had creditable coverage through their employer, but is now retiring and losing that coverage, they would qualify for an SEP and could then enroll in Parts B and D during their 60-day window.
Initial Coverage Election Period
The Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP) should not be confused with the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). The ICEP is a Medicare beneficiary’s first chance to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Individuals may also enroll in a prescription drug plan during this time.
The ICEP and IEP occur simultaneously if the beneficiary enrolls in Part B at age 65. If they enroll past their IEP, the ICEP begins three months before the Part B effective date.
General Enrollment Period
Other Types of Enrollment Periods
Individuals who are already enrolled in Original Medicare have additional enrollment periods to consider.
Medigap Open Enrollment
Medicare beneficiaries enter the Medigap (or Medicare supplement) Open Enrollment Period on the first day of the month of their 65th birthday, as long as their Part B is effective. It is wise to enroll in a Medicare supplement during this time as it is one of the only (if not the only) times that beneficiaries have guaranteed issue rights to a Medigap plan.
Annual Election Period
A Medicare beneficiary who chose not to sign up for a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan during the ICEP can choose to sign up during the Annual Election Period (AEP).
AEP happens each year from October 15 through December 7. Changes made during this time will go into effect on January 1 of the upcoming year.
There are a number of things that can be done during AEP.
- 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