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Medicare Initial Enrollment Period

Summary: Your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period is your first and best opportunity to sign up for Medicare. We review what the IEP is and how you can best use this time to enroll in Medicare benefits. Estimated Read Time: 7 mins

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Table of Contents:

  1. What is the Medicare Initial Enrollment Period?
  2. How Long is the Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare?
  3. What Happens if I Miss My Initial Enrollment Window for Medicare?
  4. How Do I Qualify for Automatic Enrollment Into Medicare During my IEP?
  5. When Does Medicare Coverage Begin If I Enroll During My IEP?
  6. Medicare Part D Initial Enrollment Period
  7. When Do I Enroll in Medicare Part D if I Missed my Initial Enrollment Period?

The Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is the first Medicare enrollment period you will receive when you become eligible for Original Medicare. This enrollment period begins at age 65 for most individuals but can happen earlier if you qualify.

Below, we discuss what you need to know about your first opportunity to sign up for Medicare. Also, we review how you can best utilize your IEP Medicare enrollment timeframe.

What is the Medicare Initial Enrollment Period?

The Medicare Initial Enrollment Period allows newly eligible for Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in their health insurance coverage. Many new Medicare enrollees miss out on their Initial Enrollment Period because they are unaware of the timeframe. This can ultimately result in late enrollment penalties and a lapse in coverage. To avoid this, you should be informed on all things Medicare before you meet your eligibility date.

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The Medicare IEP is unique to everyone becoming eligible for Medicare. This enrollment period is specific to your Medicare eligibility date and typically only happens once in your lifetime.

For most, your Medicare IEP begins on the first day of the month, three months before you turn 65. It lasts through the month of your 65th birthday and continues until the last day of the month, three months after your 65th birthday. In total, this enrollment period consists of seven months in which you can actively enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B unless you qualify for automatic enrollment.

In the unique circumstance that your birthday falls on the first day of the month, your Medicare IEP will begin on the first day of the month four months before your birthday, the month of your birth, and end on the last day of the month two months following your birthday. In this case, your Medicare coverage begins on the first day of the month before you turn 65.

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However, if you qualify for Original Medicare before age 65 due to disability, your Medicare coverage will begin on the first day of the 25th month you receive Social Security benefits. Then, you will receive a second Initial Enrollment Period when you turn 65. It is important to take advantage of your second Initial Enrollment Period as it is not a regular occurrence and can help you save money or receive new coverage if your current plan is not meeting your needs.

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How Long is the Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare?

You can take advantage of your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period as early as three months before you turn 65 or four months before you turn 65 if your birthday is on the first day of the month. Those on disability can enroll in Medicare after receiving Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) for 24 months. Then, you’ll have the opportunity to enroll again at age 65.

Disability is one of the only scenarios where you will get two Initial Enrollment Periods. The only other scenario is if you retire, return to work, get employer group coverage, and retire again later. When you retire for a second time, you will qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

Utilizing your Medicare IEP is essential to avoid penalties or lapses in insurance coverage. When you become eligible for Medicare, the last thing you want is to go without coverage. So, enrolling as soon as you become eligible is critical.

Find Your Initial Enrollment Period

 

What Happens if I Miss My Initial Enrollment Window for Medicare?

If you miss your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period for any reason, you may still enroll in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) during the General Enrollment Period. Remember, if you sign up during the General Enrollment Period, your Medicare will not start until the first day of the month following your enrollment. Therefore, you may have a coverage gap.

Additionally, if you do not maintain creditable coverage – meaning at least as good as Medicare – until this start date, you may be responsible for paying the Medicare Part B penalty, which can be costly.

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How Do I Qualify for Automatic Enrollment Into Medicare During my IEP?

If you are collecting Social Security benefits, you will automatically be enrolled in Original Medicare. In this case, you should receive your Medicare card about three months before your 65th birthday. However, this timeframe can vary based on how many people are enrolling in Medicare at any given time. On the other hand, if you are not collecting Social Security benefits by the time you age into Medicare at 65, you will need to actively enroll yourself.

If you are under age 65 and have received Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board disability benefits for at least 24 months, you also qualify for automatic Medicare enrollment. In this case, your Medicare card is mailed out about three months before the 25th month of collecting disability benefits.

Automatic Enrollment into Medicare for those Diagnosed With ALS or ESRD

If you are diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), you will automatically enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B starting the month disability benefits begin. You will not need to wait the 24-month waiting period.

Similarly, if you have an end-stage renal disease (ESRD) diagnosis, you do not need to receive SSDI benefits to qualify for Original Medicare. If you have ESRD, you can enroll in Medicare before you turn 65. However, there is a waiting period of at least four months of dialysis treatment before you can get Medicare coverage.

When Does Medicare Coverage Begin If I Enroll During My IEP?

If you sign up for Original Medicare during your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period, your effective date can vary. Enrolling during the three months before your 65th birthday means your effective date is the first day of your birthday month. Then, if you sign up during the month of your 65th birthday or in the three months following your birthday, your effective date is the first day of the following month.

For example, if you were born on June 11 and enrolled in Medicare in August (two months after your birthday), your effective date will be September 1.

Part B Coverage Start Date

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Medicare Part D Initial Enrollment Period

Your Medicare Part D Initial Enrollment Period is the same as your Medicare Part A and Part B Initial Enrollment Period. Suppose you do not enroll in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage during your Initial Enrollment Period window. You may incur a Part D late enrollment penalty if you do not have creditable coverage.

Once you enroll in at least Medicare Part A, you become eligible for Medicare Part D.

When Do I Enroll in Medicare Part D if I Missed my IEP?

If you missed your Initial Enrollment Period, you should know the Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D occurs each fall. This window begins on October 15 and ends on December 7. During this period, you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. Coverage will begin on January 1 of the following year.

How to Use Your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period

You can use your Initial Enrollment Period when you first become eligible for Original Medicare. Working with a licensed agent is a great way to ensure your coverage begins on time and that your plan will cover your needs.

At MedicareFAQ, we are here to help walk you through each step of your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period. Our licensed insurance agents understand the importance of avoiding penalties and meeting deadlines for enrollment. Thus, we ensure you enroll on time so you never incur a late penalty.

Additionally, our agents will work one-on-one with you to find the best available supplemental policies available in your area and help you enroll in the right plan. Give us a call today or complete our online comparison form to see all your options side-by-side.

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. Accessed September 2023.
    https://www.medicare.gov/basics/get-started-with-medicare/sign-up/when-does-medicare-coverage-start
  2. 5 Things You Need to Know About Medicare Enrollment, CMS. Accessed September 2023.
    https://www.cms.gov/training-education/find-provider-type/employers-unions/top-five-medicare-enrollment
David Haass

David Haass

David Haass is the Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of Elite Insurance Partners and MedicareFAQ.com. He is a member and regular contributor to Forbes Finance Council and stay up-to-date with the latest Medicare trends and changes. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management from the University of Florida.
Ashlee Zareczny

Ashlee Zareczny

Compliance Manager
Ashlee Zareczny is the Compliance Manager for MedicareFAQ. As a licensed Medicare agent in all 50 states, she is dedicated to educating those eligible for Medicare by providing the necessary resources and tools. Additionally, Ashlee trains new and tenured Medicare agents on CMS compliance guidelines. Ashlee is a Medicare expert who specializes in Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D education.

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