Medicare General Enrollment Period
The Medicare General Enrollment Period (GEP) refers to Medicare Parts A and B. Medicare beneficiaries can sign up for Part A and/or Part B during the General Enrollment Period (GEP) between January 1st and March 31st each year, if both of the following are applicable:
- You did not sign up when you were first eligible.
- You aren’t eligible for a Special Enrollment Period.
Medicare Part A and Part B premiums must be paid and the coverage will be effective July 1st. Keep in mind that you may pay higher premium for late enrollment into Parts A and B.
Initial Enrollment Period: Avoiding the Penalty
There is a 7 month window in which you can enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B. The window is open 3 months before the month in which you turn 65, the month in which you turn 65 and at the end of 3 months after the month you turn 65. This is called the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP).
If you are not enrolled in Part A automatically, you can sign up for free any time during or after your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) starts. The coverage effective date will depend upon when you sign up for the plan. If you have to buy Part A and/or Part B, you can only sign up during a valid enrollment period.
Medicare beneficiaries who choose to wait until the month they turn 65 (or the 3 months after) to enroll could have a gap in coverage and the Part B effective date will be delayed.
In most cases, if you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B when you’re first eligible, you will have to pay a late enrollment penalty. That penalty never ceases. It will be applied to the monthly Part B premium, forever.
Special Enrollment Periods (SEP)
After the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) ends, you may have another opportunity to sign up for Medicare. A Special Enrollment Period, in which you don’t have to pay a late enrollment penalty.
You can enroll in Part A and/or B during an 8 month Special Enrollment Period (SEP) that would be applicable if the following conditions are met:
- >You or your spouse (or family member if you’re disabled) is working.
- You’re covered by a group health plan through the employer or union based on that work.
The 8 month period begins at one of these times, whichever occurs first:
- The month after the employment ends
- The month after group health plan insurance based on current employment ends.
When Employer or UnionCoverage is Ending, 3 Things Happen.
- You may be able to get COBRA coverage, which continues your health insurance through the employer’s plan (in most cases for only 18 months) and probably at a higher cost to you.
- You have 8 months to sign up for Part B without a penalty, whether or not you choose COBRA. If you choose COBRA, don’t wait until your COBRA ends to enroll in Part B. If you don’t enroll in Part B during the 8 months after the employment ends, you may have a lifetime late enrollment penalty. You will be able to enroll in Medicare Part B during the Medicare General Enrollment Period, January 1st through March 31st and have the coverage effective July 1st.
- If you already have COBRA coverage when you enroll in Medicare, your COBRA will probably end.
Utilizing the Medicare General Enrollment Period
There are instances in which Medicare beneficiaries delay enrolling in Medicare Part A and Part B. A few of which are outlined for your reference.
If you have comparable coverage in place through your employer (or your spouse’s employer) sponsored group health coverage and the employer has 20 or more employees, then you can delay enrolling in Medicare Parts A and B. You will not incur the lifetime late enrollment penalty.
Typically, the Medicare General Enrollment Period is utilized by persons that missed the Initial Enrollment Period, and do not qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.
This Medicare General Enrollment Period allows those individuals a period in which to obtain coverage through Medicare for Parts A and B. The enrollment period begins January 1st of every year and extends through March 31st. The effective date will be July 1st.
Medicare beneficiaries eligible for premium-free Part A can enroll at any time after they are first eligible. The Part A effective date will go back 6 months (retroactively) from when you sign up, but no earlier than when you were first eligible.
Choosing the most favorable option can seem a little intimidating, even for the most savvy senior. Medicare beneficiaries are encouraged to reach out to a licensed agent to take advantage of the expertise available.
Knowing when to enroll is a tough personal choice and should not be taken lightly. Call us today, or compare rates for Medicare plans online here.