There are many different types of Medicare Enrollment Periods. These enrollment periods fall into two categories.
First, open enrollment, available to anyone who is eligible for Medicare. Then, special enrollment periods, which are based on your circumstances.
If you want to change the coverage you currently have, you can during a Medicare Enrollment Period.
Medicare enrollment periods can be confusing because different enrollment periods have different dates for different purposes.
Here’s a glossary of terms to help you understand enrollment periods, when they happen, and who they apply to.
Medicare Enrollment Periods for Everyone
There are many enrollment periods for people signing up for benefits for the first time.
If you’re receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits when you turn 65, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Original Medicare.
Enrollment periods are an opportunity to enroll in these plans as well as Part D, or to replace Original Medicare coverage with a Medicare Advantage plan.
It’s highly recommended that you take advantage of the Medicare sign up period.
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
One Medicare enrollment period is the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). This allows you to sign up for Medicare Parts B and D when you turn 65.
Your IEP begins three months before the month you turn 65, includes your birthday month and ends three months after the month you turn 65.
For example, if your birthday is June 15th, you can enroll in Medicare between March 1st and September 30th.
Initial Enrollment Period 2 (IEP2)
Another enrollment period that is also 7-months is the Initial Enrollment Period 2 (IEP2). This is for people who were already eligible for Medicare Parts A and B before they turned 65.
During the IEP2, you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription plan. The IEP2 runs for the same seven-month period as the IEP.
Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
One of the most complicated Medicare enrollment periods is the Special Enrollment Period (SEP). This is when you can make changes to your Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug coverage when certain events happen in your life.
Events include situations such as if you move or lose other insurance coverage.
An example is losing health insurance through you or your spouse’s employer.
When you qualify for a SEP, you’ll have up to 60 days following the event to enroll in coverage. Rules about when you can make changes and the type of changes you can make are different for each SEP.
Another example of a SEP would be if you’re switching from employer coverage to enrollment for Medicare.
Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP)
Another Medicare enrollment period is the Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP). This is your first opportunity to choose a Medicare Advantage plan instead of Original Medicare.
During the ICEP, you can also sign up for prescription drug coverage.
If you enroll in Part B when you turn 65, your ICEP is the same as your IEP. When you enroll later, your ICEP is the three-month period before your Medicare Part B coverage takes effect.
- If you’re newly eligible for Medicare because you turned 65, you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan or Prescription Plan.
- When on Medicare because of a disability, you can select a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Drug Plan. Medicare coverage begins 24 months after SS or RRB disability benefits.
- If you’re already eligible for Medicare because of a disability and you turned 65, you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
- You can also switch from your current Medicare Advantage or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another plan.
- Additionally, you can drop a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan completely. If you sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan during this time, you can drop that plan during the next 12 months and return to Original Medicare.
General Enrollment Period
- If you don’t have Medicare Part A coverage and you enroll in Medicare Part B during the Part B General Enrollment Period, you can sign up for a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan between April 1st – June 30th.
Understanding the Different Enrollment Periods
There are three enrollment periods for people signing up for benefits who are already enrolled in Original Medicare. During open enrollment, you can make changes to your Medicare plans and add additional coverage.
Open Enrollment Period (OEP)
Your Open Enrollment Period (OEP) begins the 1st day of the month you turn 65 years old and your Medicare Part B has become effective. Many beneficiaries take advantage of this Medicare sign up period.
For example, if your birthday was August 31st and your Medicare Part B effective date was October 1st, then your OEP begins October 1st.
Your OEP lasts for 6 months, you’ll be granted Medicare Supplement Guaranteed Issue rights.
During this time, you can sign up for a Medicare Supplement Plan, also known as Medigap.
If you didn’t sign up for a Medicare Advantage or a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan during your IEP, the AEP is your next chance to make changes. There are exceptions for those who qualify for a Medicare Special Enrollment Period.
Annual Election Period (AEP)
During the Annual Election Period (AEP) from October 15th to December 7th, you can:
- Switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage.
- Go from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare.
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
- Enroll in Part D prescription drug coverage, or change or drop your prescription plan.
You can find the AEP checklist here.
Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP)
Starting in 2019, the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP) will be discontinued and replaced with the return of the Medicare Open Enrollment Period.
The Return of the Open Enrollment Period
The Medicare Open Enrollment Period is for only those enrolled in Medicare Advantage. This period will start in 2019 and run from January 1st through March 31st.
During the Open Enrollment Period you can:
- Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another
Get Help Understanding Enrollment Periods
Many people who choose Original Medicare also sign up for a Medicare Supplement (or Medigap) plan that pays for the things Parts A and B don’t cover. At MedicareFAQ, we are committed to finding you the best rates on the top Medigap plans in your area.