Four Medicare enrollment periods you need to know about

Understanding when you can enroll in Medicare can be confusing. There are quite a few enrollment dates and deadlines based on your eligibility and when you plan to enroll. In this article, we go over the four Medicare enrollment periods so you can plan accordingly.

Who is eligible to enroll in Medicare?

  • Anyone who is 65 or older
  • Anyone under 65 and receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for 2+ years
  • Anyone under 65 who has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Anyone under 65 who has End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)
  • Anyone over 65 who is disabled and has collected social security for 24+ months

What are the different enrollment periods?

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): You are first eligible to enroll in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period. This is a 7-month enrollment period that includes the three months before your 65th birthday, the month you turn 65, and three months after your birthday.
Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) - Four Medicare enrollment periods you need to know about - HealthSherpa.comYou will automatically enroll in Part A if you paid Medicare taxes for at least ten years. Otherwise, you can enroll manually through Social Security and may have to pay a premium.

If you’re disabled, you automatically get Parts A and B once you receive disability benefits for 24+ consecutive months.

General Enrollment Period (GEP): If you missed your Initial Enrollment Period, you can enroll in Original Medicare during the General Enrollment Period. This is basically an Open Enrollment Period for Original Medicare (Parts A & B). It runs from January 1st through March 31st every year. However, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for enrolling in Part A and/or B after your IEP.

Special Enrollment Period (SEP): A lot of people choose not to enroll in Medicare Part B during their Initial Enrollment Period because they still have employer-sponsored benefits. When their coverage ends (because they’re retiring or wanting to switch to a Medicare policy) a Special Enrollment Period is triggered. During their Special Enrollment Period, they can enroll in Medicare Part B or update their current Medicare plan. This is typically a two-month window but can vary depending on the circumstance.

A Special Enrollment Period can also be triggered based on a few additional situations (change in address, moving back to the United States, plus more.) See the entire list, along with details, here.

Annual Enrollment Period (AEP): If you want to make changes to your current Medicare Advantage or Prescription drug plan, you’re able to during the Annual Enrollment Period (October 15–December 7). Here is an overview of what changes you can make:

  • Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan from Original Medicare
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • Enroll in a new Part D prescription drug plan
  • Switch from your current Part D plan into another
  • Drop your Part D coverage completely

What are my next steps?

Understanding all of your options can be tricky. If you’re still wondering what Medicare plan is right for you, check out our Medicare guide. This is where we highlight the different parts of Medicare to help you make an informed and confident decision. Or you can reach out to one of our licensed insurance agents for assistance at 844.651.9991.


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