If you’ve decided to enroll in Medicare, it’s important to understand when you can sign up because it can determine when your coverage begins. Understanding the different enrollment periods can help you figure out when the best time is for you to apply for Medicare. Today we will explain the difference between Initial Enrollment Periods, Special Enrollment Periods, General Enrollment Periods and Open Enrollment Periods to help you best decide when you should enroll in Medicare.
When Can You Enroll In Medicare?
Initial Enrollment Period
If you are about to turn 65, then you are eligible to sign up for Medicare Parts A, B, C and D. The Initial Enrollment Period lasts for seven months and coverage begins on your birthday month. The enrollment period lasts for the three months before your birthday month, your birthday month and the three months after your birthday month. You can enroll in Medicare at any point during this timeframe. For example, if you turn 65 in April, then you can enroll in Medicare at any point between January and July. If you’ve enrolled before your birthday month, then the coverage will begin during your birthday month. If you enroll during or after your birthday month, the coverage will begin at the beginning of the next month.
Coverage for Parts B and D may begin at different dates, depending on when you enroll within the Initial Enrollment Period. If you enroll during the first three months before your birthday, then coverage for Parts B and D will begin at the beginning of your birthday month. If you enroll during your birthday month, then coverage will begin at the beginning of the following month. If you enroll in Part B coverage in the month after your birthday, then coverage will begin three months after your birthday month. If you enroll in Part B two months after your birthday, then coverage begins five months after your birthday. If you enroll in Part B three months after your birthday, then coverage begins six months after your birthday.
For example, let’s say your IEP is from June to December, with your birthday in September, and you enroll in Medicare in June, then coverage for Parts A, B, C and D will all begin at the start of your birthday month. If you decide to enroll in September, then coverage will begin at the beginning of October. If you enroll in October, then Parts A, C and D will begin at the beginning of November. Part B coverage won’t start until December. If you enroll in November, coverage for Parts A, C and D will start in December, but Part B coverage will start in February. Finally, if you decide to enroll in December, then Parts A, C and D will begin in January, while Part B will not start until March. It can be confusing to keep up with all the different dates, so it is especially important to know exactly what your IEP is.
If you miss this Initial Enrollment Period, you will still be able to enroll at a later time, however it may cost you more and you could be without healthcare coverage for a period of time. Be sure you are aware of the seven-month window that you have to enroll. The Initial Enrollment Period serves as your first opportunity to register for Medicare.
Special Enrollment Period
The Special Enrollment Period will begin after your Initial Enrollment Period ends, but only certain individuals are eligible. You are eligible to sign up for Medicare during a Special Enrollment Period if you or your spouse is actively working and if you are covered by a healthcare plan through that employer. You are also eligible during the 8 months after the plan ends or after work ends. You may qualify for Special Enrollment if you are a volunteer in a foreign country.
The SEP lasts as long as you have coverage from an employer, or the eight months after your Parts A and B coverage ends, or the 63 days after your Parts C and D coverage ends. Because Special Enrollment Periods are only available in certain circumstances, check to make sure your healthcare is covered by an employer or if that coverage has ended within eight months from today.
You may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period specifically for Part D if you move out of the area that your plan currently serves, if you move in or out of a nursing home, or if your Part D plan changes and no longer covers you.
General Enrollment Period
If you miss the Initial Enrollment Period or the Special Enrollment Period, you should apply for Medicare during the General Enrollment Period. This takes place from January 1 – March 31 every year. Anyone who has not already applied for Medicare is eligible to apply during this time. Coverage will not begin until July 1 and you must sign up for both Medicare Part A and Part B at this time.
Open Enrollment Period
The Open Enrollment Period runs from October 15 to December 7 each year. This period is used to allow customers the opportunity to switch plans. During this time, you can switch from Medicare Parts A and B to a Medicare Part C plan and vice versa. Anyone with Medicare Parts A and B is also eligible to join, drop or switch a Medicare Part D plan which covers prescription drugs. If you have a part C plan, you are authorized to switch your Part C plan. Any changes you make in your Medicare coverage during the Open Enrollment Period will begin January 1 of the upcoming year.
As you can tell, it is vital to understand the different enrollment periods because it will help you determine when it’s the best time to enroll in Medicare. If you are looking to get coverage as soon as possible, it is best to apply during the first three months of your Initial Enrollment Period to ensure that you will receive coverage during the month of your 65th birthday. Of course, you can apply at other times if you miss this date. Be sure you understand the different enrollment periods before you begin the Medicare enrollment process.
If you need any help understanding enrollment periods, please feel free to give us a call. We’re here to help with all your Medicare questions.