There are many different types of Medicare Enrollment Periods. These enrollment periods fall into two categories. First, open enrollment is available to anyone eligible for Medicare. Then, Special Enrollment Periods. If you want to change the coverage you currently have, you can do so during one of the above enrollment windows.
Medicare Enrollment Periods for Everyone
Medicare Enrollment Periods can be confusing because different enrollment periods have different dates for various purposes. 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 Medicare.
Enrollment periods are an opportunity to enroll in these plans as well as Part D, or to replace Medicare coverage with a Medicare Advantage plan.
Some enrollment periods are specifically for Medigap. And, others are specific for Medicare Advantage enrollment periods.
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. The IEP allows you to sign up for Parts B and D when you turn 65.
Your Initial Enrollment Period begins three months before the month you turn 65, includes your birthday month and ends three months after you turn 65.
For example, if your birthday is June 15th, you can apply for 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. The IEP2 is for people who were already eligible for Part A and B before they turned 65.
During the IEP2, you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage or Part D 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. A SEP is when you can make changes to your Medicare Advantage and 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 will 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. The ICEP 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 join later, your ICEP is the three months before your 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 Prescription Drug Plan.
- You can also switch from your current Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan to another plan.
- Additionally, you can drop a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan altogether. 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
During the General Enrollment Period from January 1st to March 31st, you can enroll in Parts A and B. You may pay the penalty if you didn’t join in Part B during an IEP or SEP.
- If you don’t have Part A coverage and you enroll in Part B during the General Enrollment Period, you can sign up for a 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.
Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period
Your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period begins the 1st day of the month you turn 65 years old, and your 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 Part B effective date was October 1st, then your OEP begins October 1st.
Your OEP lasts for six 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 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
During the Annual Election Period 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, or change or drop your prescription plan.
The Annual Election period takes place at the same time each year.
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
Starting in 2019, the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period will be replaced with the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. This enrollment period is only for those who are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and are looking to switch to another or go back to Original Medicare.
How to Get Help Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods
Many people who choose Original Medicare also sign up for a Medicare Supplement plan that pays for the things Medicare doesn’t cover. At MedicareFAQ, we are committed to finding you the best rates on the top Medigap plans in your area.