Medicare Enrollment Periods

Medicare enrollment periods allow you to do several things, such as enroll in Medicare for the first time, disenroll from a Medicare plan, or even switch between plans so you can find the coverage that suits you best.

That’s why at Thomas Family Insurance, we will make sure you have an understanding of these enrollment periods, so you know when to enroll and can avoid penalties.

Initial Enrollment Period

The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is the first enrollment period that becomes available to newly Medicare-eligible seniors. During the Initial Enrollment Period, you can enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B, also known as Original Medicare. Your IEP is personalized to you as it is based around your 65th birthday. It will start three months before your 65th birthday month and then end three months after your birthday month.

One of the most important things we like to let everyone know is never delay your Medicare enrollment during this period. This is because delaying your enrollment will result in late enrollment penalties added to your monthly Medicare premiums. Now, there are some exceptions where you can still delay your enrollment and not face penalties, but you will have to meet certain criteria for another enrollment period called the Special Enrollment Period.

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General Enrollment Period

The General Enrollment Period is another period you can enroll in as your first time for Medicare if you missed your IEP. This period is not based on your birthday, though. It will start on January 1 and end on March 31 of each year. Once you enroll, your actual coverage will not begin until July 1.

Another important factor to note about this period is that you will face late enrollment penalties since you delayed enrolling past your IEP.

Medigap Open Enrollment Period

The Medigap Open Enrollment Period allows Medicare enrollees to purchase a Medicare Supplement plan. During this period, there is a guaranteed issue right to purchase a Medicare Supplement plan as long as you are enrolled in Original Medicare. This period will become available as soon as you are enrolled in Original Medicare and are 65.

The Medigap Open Enrollment Period will last for a total of six months, and because of your guaranteed issue right, you cannot be denied coverage from an insurer. However, after these six months are over, it is possible that insurers can make you go through an underwriting process where they will then decide your eligibility.

Annual Enrollment Period

The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), also known as the Annual Election Period, is an annual period that all Medicare enrollees can take advantage of. This period starts on October 15 and ends on December 7.

During this period, you can make changes to your coverage that includes:

  • Switching to a Medicare Advantage plan if you’re enrolled in Original Medicare and vice versa
  • Switching from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, either with or without prescription drug coverage
  • Switching to a new Part D prescription drug plan or joining or dropping a Part D plan
  • Switching from one insurer to another

If you make any changes during this period, your coverage won’t start until January 1.

Special Enrollment Period

As mentioned previously, if you delayed your IEP, you could possibly enroll during a Special Enrollment Period and avoid paying any late enrollment penalties. But, to enroll in this period, you have to meet specific criteria, which can include:

  • Having creditable coverage when you first became eligible for Medicare, but you are now losing that coverage.
  • Moving out of your plan’s service area and needing a new plan.
  • Already being enrolled in Medicare, but your plan changes its contract with Medicare and it impacts you, resulting in you needing a new plan.

These are just some of the few exceptions that would allow you to take advantage of a Special Enrollment Period.

Need Help Enrolling?

At Thomas Family Insurance, we are ready to assist you with the Medicare enrollment process so you can get the coverage you need and avoid late enrollment penalties. Contact us today for more information!