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Medicare General Enrollment Period


Suppose you miss your chance to apply for Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) during your Initial Enrollment Period. In that case, the Medicare General Enrollment Period is your chance to sign up for the coverage you are entitled to. Even if you are eligible for Original Medicare, you cannot enroll at any time.

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You must be within a valid enrollment period to apply for Original Medicare. Below, we review the Medicare General Enrollment Period, who is eligible, and how to enroll.

What is the General Enrollment Period for Medicare?

The General Enrollment Period for Medicare occurs between January 1 and March 31 each year. Aside from qualifying for a Special Enrollment Period due to a life event, this is your only chance to apply for Original Medicare after your Initial Enrollment Period.

When you sign up for Original Medicare benefits during the General Enrollment Period, your coverage begins on the first day of the month following your enrollment. Thus, if you enroll on February 12, your coverage starts on March 1. Remember, if you delay Medicare enrollment without creditable coverage, you should budget for late enrollment penalties. So, if you enroll in Medicare during the General Enrollment Period, you might be responsible for these late fees.

The General Enrollment Period is your first choice to enroll in Medicare coverage. This enrollment period should only be used as a backup if you miss your Initial Enrollment Period.

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Medicare General Enrollment Period 2023

The Medicare General Enrollment Period for 2023 is the first time enrollees can sign up for coverage that begins on the first day of the following month. In previous years, signing up for Original Medicare during the General Enrollment Period meant waiting until July 1 for your coverage to go into effect.

Thus, those who had to pay late enrollment penalties accrued extra late fees for the months between their enrollment and July 1. Now, Medicare hopes to reduce late enrollment penalties by allowing coverage to begin earlier than before.

Medicare’s General Enrollment Period

Medicare General Enrollment Period (GEP)The Medicare General Enrollment Period allows you to sign up for coverage if you missed your Initial Enrollment Period and do not have a Special Enrollment Period. You can use the Medicare General Enrollment Period to apply for Medicare Part A or Part B at any time in January, February, or March.

When you use this enrollment period, your coverage is effective the first day of the following month. Meaning you will not need to wait longer to use your benefits. Often, when you enroll during the General Enrollment Period, you will likely be responsible for a late enrollment penalty.

Therefore, it is vital to apply when you first become eligible. Choosing to lapse in coverage is not wise, especially after age 65.

After enrolling in Original Medicare, you will be eligible for a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) or Medicare Advantage plan. So, if you want to enroll in either coverage type, you should ensure the effective date is the same as for your Original Medicare.

You can enroll in a Medigap plan at any time. However, outside of your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period, you must go through the underwriting process, which means you may face denial due to pre-existing conditions.

In addition to Medigap, it is wise to enroll in a Medicare Part D plan if you do not already have creditable drug coverage for Medicare.

There is also a Medicare Part D late enrollment penalty. So, if you do not have drug coverage at least as good as Medicare, enrolling in a plan will save you from paying the penalty later.

On the other hand, you will also receive an Initial Coverage Election Period for Medicare Advantage if you do not enroll in a Medigap plan. You must register in a Medicare Advantage plan before your Part B effective date.

General Enrollment Period for Medicare Part B

Suppose you enroll in Medicare Part A during your Initial Enrollment Period and delay Medicare Part B. In that case, you could use the General Enrollment Period to sign up for Medicare Part B benefits if you do not qualify for a Medicare Part B Special Enrollment Period.

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To qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, you must have creditable coverage. Creditable coverage prevents you from paying the Medicare Part B late enrollment penalty. However, suppose you do not have creditable coverage. In that case, the next time you can enroll in Original Medicare is during the General Enrollment Period, and a late enrollment penalty may be applicable. You must enroll in Medicare Part B during the General Enrollment Period and pay the late enrollment penalty.

Can I Delay Medicare Part B During the General Enrollment Period?

The only circumstance in which you may delay Medicare Part B while avoiding a late enrollment penalty is if you have employer coverage through your job or your spouse.

If you delay Medicare Part B enrollment due to creditable coverage, such as group coverage through your employer, you do not have to worry about the late enrollment penalty. Thus, enrolling in Medicare Part A only during the General Enrollment period is not an issue.

When you retire, you get a Special Enrollment Period for Medicare Part B. You will not need to wait until the next General Enrollment Period to get coverage.

How Does the General Enrollment Period Work with Medicare Part D?

When you enroll in either Medicare Part A or Part B during the General Enrollment Period, you will receive a Medicare Part D Special Enrollment Period to choose your Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.

If you sign up for Original Medicare during the General Enrollment Period, you can apply for a Medicare Part D plan.

The Medicare Part D late enrollment penalty is 1% of the average Medicare Part D plan premium for each month you delay Medicare Part D coverage. For example, if you delay Medicare prescription drug coverage for 25 months, you will be charged 25% of the average Medicare Part D plan on top of your chosen plan’s premium.

Suppose you do not sign up for prescription drug coverage when you first become eligible for Medicare and lack creditable coverage. In that case, you will need to pay the monthly penalty with your premium. However, this penalty is calculated by the number of months you delayed coverage rather than years.

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What is the Difference Between Medicare Open Enrollment and General Enrollment?

Many people believe Medicare Open Enrollment and General Enrollment are the same. This is not true. Medicare (Supplement) Open Enrollment is a window unique to you. It allows you to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan without underwriting health questions when first signing up for Original Medicare.

Additionally, the fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period is another name for the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, which is from October 15 through December 7 each year. The Open Enrollment Period concerns Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.

If you sign up for Original Medicare during the General Enrollment Period, your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment and your Initial Coverage Election Period (for Medicare Advantage) will follow your Original Medicare enrollment.

If you decide to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan in the future, you may need to answer underwriting health questions. So, your policy can be denied due to pre-existing health conditions. However, you will never need to answer underwriting health questions when enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan. Thus, you can receive Medicare Advantage coverage regardless of your health.  

How to Get Help During the General Enrollment Period

Nobody should have to enroll in Medicare alone. At MedicareFAQ, we are here to help.

We believe in educating our clients to help them find the policy that brings them the most value and benefits. Because we work with various carriers, we help simplify the shopping experience for Medicare insurance.

Regardless of which Medicare enrollment period you need to use, or the plan in which you wish to enroll, we can help. Contact us today at the number above, or use our rate form to get a free side-by-side plan comparison for the options in your area.

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Sources:

MedicareFAQ is dedicated to providing you with authentic and trustworthy Medicare information. We have strict sourcing guidelines and work diligently to serve our readers with accurate and up-to-date content.

  1. When Does Medicare Coverage Start, Medicare.gov. Accessed September 2022.
    https://www.medicare.gov/basics/get-started-with-medicare/sign-up/when-does-medicare-coverage-start
  2. Learn More About the Medicare General Enrollment Period, NCOA. Accessed September 2022.
    https://www.ncoa.org/article/a-closer-look-at-the-medicare-general-enrollment-period

Jagger Esch

Jagger Esch is the Medicare expert for MedicareFAQ and the founder, president, and CEO of Elite Insurance Partners and MedicareFAQ.com. Since the inception of his first company in 2012, he has been dedicated to helping those eligible for Medicare by providing them with resources to educate themselves on all their Medicare options. He is featured in many publications as well as writes regularly for other expert columns regarding Medicare.

9 thoughts on “Medicare General Enrollment Period

  1. Hi Lindsay, Hope your day is going well. I am not going to retire until 66 and 2 months. I will be 65 this December. Do I sign up for Medicare now or will this be to early. I don’t want to have that 10% penalty thrown at me.

    1. Hi Douglas! The General Enrollment Period is for this who did not enroll in Part A and Part B when they were first eligible. Since you’re just turning 65 in December, your Initial Enrollment Period window started in September and ends in March. So, your IEP will overlap with the GEP, but your IEP is what you will use to enroll. Yes, you can enroll now. You will want to enroll in Part A since it will be premium-free. If you’re still working and your employer has more than 20 employees, then your group coverage will be considered creditable and you can delay enrolling in Part B until after you leave the group coverage. If your employer has less than 20 employees, then you would need to sign up for Part B during your IEP to avoid the penalty. You can apply for Medicare online now for coverage to begin December 1st.

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