The Medicare General Enrollment Period occurs annually between January 1st and March 31st.
If you didn’t enroll in Part A and Part B when you were first eligible, the GEP is your second chance to do so.
There are many different enrollment periods for Medicare. All these enrollment windows tend to cause a ton of confusion among beneficiaries.
Our team works around the clock to make sure our content is up to date and informative as possible. We hope to clarify any confusion, so you understand when you need to take action regarding your Medicare benefits.
Now, let us dig into what the Medicare General Enrollment Period is, who it’s for, what you can and cannot do, and what late enrollment penalties you may come across.
What is the Medicare General Enrollment Period
The Medicare General Enrollment Period occurs annually between 1/1-3/31.
Under most circumstances, this is the only time outside your Initial Enrollment Period that you can sign up for Part A & Part B.
Beneficiaries have to wait until the General Enrollment Period to enroll in Part A and/or Part B if they missed their Initial Enrollment Period AND do not qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.
Your Initial Enrollment Period, or IEP, is the first chance all beneficiaries have to enroll in Part A & Part B.
Your IEP window begins 3-months before your 65th birthday or 24 months after you start collecting Social Security Disability Income.
If your Initial Enrollment Period has passed & you don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, then the General Enrollment Period is your second chance to enroll.
How the General Enrollment Period Works
You can use the Medicare GEP to enroll at any time during January, February, and March. The coverage will become effective on July 1st.
That means since coverage won’t go into effect until July 1st, you’ll have no healthcare coverage until then. That’s why it’s crucial to take advantage of your Initial Enrollment Period.
When you use your IEP, coverage begins on the 1st of the month after you enroll. Thus, preventing any gaps in coverage.
During the General Enrollment Period, you can enroll either online, in person at your local Social Security office, or by phone. Many agree that the fastest and easiest way to enroll is online.
If you already have Part A and only need to enroll in Part B, you will need to complete this form. Once complete, you can either mail it to the Social Security office or bring it to them in person.
Delaying Part B
The majority of individuals qualify to receive Part A benefits for free. However, Part B comes with a monthly premium. Depending on your specific situation, you may choose to delay your Part B enrollment.
The only circumstance you can generally delay Part B and avoid a late enrollment penalty is if you’re actively working past 65 and enrolled in employer coverage. Or, if you’re covered under your spouses’ employer group plan.
When you retire, you’ll be given a Special Enrollment Period to enroll in Part B. You won’t have to wait until the General Enrollment Period comes around to sign up.
If you delay Part B for more than a year after you were first eligible, a late enrollment penalty will begin to accrue. For every full year, you delay Part B, your enrollment penalty increases by 10%.
However, if you don’t delay Part B any longer than a year, you won’t owe a penalty.
Therefore, you must use the General Enrollment Period to enroll as soon as possible to prevent racking up a hefty penalty that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
What Low-Income Beneficiaries Need to Know
If you initially declined Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period because the premium cost was too high, you’re not alone.
If you didn’t qualify for premium-free Part A, you might have opted to not enroll during your IEP because the premium cost for Part A is even higher than Part B.
You still have options available; not everyone can afford the cost of coverage, and that’s understandable.
Medicare has at least 3 of the Medicare Savings Programs to cover the Part B premium resulting in protection from a Part B penalty.
Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program and Part A
Before becoming eligible for Medicare Savings Programs, you must first be enrolled in Part A.
As previously mentioned, the majority will get Part A when they’re first entitled. If you don’t have it, the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program covers the Part A premium.
To enroll in Part A, you must do so at the Social Security Administration District Office.
If you’re enrolling in Part A, but only if the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program will cover your premium amount, tell your Social Security claims representative you want “conditional enrollment.”
This will ensure that if you don’t get QMB, your Part A enrollment won’t go through.
Most states across the country have the Part A conditional enrollment procedure available at any time of the year.
However, some states limit this option and only allow you to use it during the General Enrollment Period. These states are Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Mexico, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.
How the General Enrollment Period works with Part D
When you enroll in either Parts A or B during the General Enrollment Period, you’ll also get a related Part D Special Enrollment Period to choose your Part D prescription drug coverage.
You can enroll in a Medicare drug plan during April through June; your coverage will begin July 1st. All other parts of Medicare you joined during the Medicare General Enrollment Period will also start on July 1st.
Just like Part B, there is a Part D late enrollment penalty if you don’t sign up when you first become eligible. However, the penalty is calculated by the number of months you delayed coverage vs. the number of years.
General Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage
Just like Part D, when you enroll in Medicare during the General Enrollment Period, you’ll get a SEP to choose a Medicare Advantage plan.
You can enroll in a private Medicare Advantage plan from April through June with a July 1st effective date.
It’s important to note that you cannot enroll in a Medigap plan if you choose to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Make sure you compare the difference between Medicare Advantage and Medigap closely before you enroll in one or the other.
They do NOT work the same and have different benefits. Zero dollar premium plans come with higher out of pocket costs than Medigap plans.
This is one of the many reasons you want a licensed Medicare agent that’s familiar with the differences to help guide you throughout your enrollment.
If you find yourself unhappy with your Medicare Advantage benefits for any reason, you can use the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period to disenroll.
The MA OEP enrollment window happens annually at the same time as the General Enrollment Period window, January 1st-March 31st.
Once you disenroll, you can then enroll in a Medigap plan and/or stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan.
How the GEP Works with Medigap Plans
You can sign up for a Medigap plan at any time of the year. You’re eligible to do so once your Part B is in effect. There is no General Enrollment Period for Medigap plans, but there is an Open Enrollment Window for them.
Regardless if you use your Initial Enrollment Period, the General Enrollment Period, or a Special Enrollment Period to enroll in Part B, you’re Open Enrollment for Medigap will begin the day your Part B is active and will last 6 months after.
The first 6 months you have Part B is the best time to sign up for Medigap. This ensures you get the lowest premium, and you won’t have to answer health questions.
Outside your Medigap Open Enrollment window, you can still purchase a Medicare Supplement plan. However, you’ll have to answer health questions during the enrollment process.
Make sure you talk to your agent about Open Enrollment vs Guaranteed Issue vs Underwriting so that you fully understand the differences.
What is a Valid Medicare Enrollment Period?
When you hear “For those who must buy into Medicare, you may only sign up during a valid enrollment period.” What is a valid enrollment period to buy??
A valid enrollment period simply means your Initial Enrollment Period or the General Enrollment Period in this case.
Don’t Take on Medicare Alone
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We can compare all your options side by side. Plus, when you enroll through us, you’ll have universal access to our Client Care Team. They will help you overcome any obstacles you may encounter throughout your Medicare journey.
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