It is, therefore, essential to understanding various enrollment periods if you are new to Medicare or want to switch your Medicare elections. This article will explore different Medicare enrollment periods and how to use them to acquire coverage.

What Does Medicare Enrollment Period Mean?

These enrollment periods are confusing as various enrollment periods entail other dates for different purposes. If you are signing up for Medicare for the first time, you can choose from the different enrollment periods to obtain Medicare benefits. You may not have to apply for benefits as a new member, as you can automatically enroll in Medicare if you meet some requirements.

When you get your Social Security benefits after turning 65, you automatically enroll in Original Medicare. Therefore, you won’t have to enroll for Medicare Parts A and B personally. But, if you don’t meet the threshold for automatic enrollment, take advantage of the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP).

What is the Medicare Initial Enrollment Period?

This is a seven-month enrollment period allowing people to enroll for Medicare Parts A and B. you qualify for enrollment when you attain 65 years or receive your 24th disability Social Security check. During the IEP, one can enroll for Original Medicare or postpone Medicare Part B. Obtaining Medicare Part A is not difficult for most people as it has a $0 monthly premium. But, it is common to delay Medicare Part B coverage if one has creditable coverage. This is health insurance providing at least similar benefits to Original Medicare.

The IEP starts three months before attaining your qualifying event, the event month, and concludes three months after the qualifying event. Most people reach this period upon attaining 65 years. For instance, if your 65th birthday is on June 1, your IEP starts on March 1 to September 30. Those who enroll in Medicare three months before their 65th birthday starts enjoying their benefits on their birth month’s first day. Coverage will start on the first day of the subsequent month when you enroll on your birth month or the subsequent three months.

Initial Enrollment Period before Turning 65

People who obtain Medicare benefits before they turn 65 because of disability have a second IEP. This occurs when they turn 65, referred to as Initial Enrollment Period 2. For instance, if you qualify for Medicare aged 55 because of two years of disability, you can enroll again when you reach 65 years with no fines for late enrollment.

During IEP 2, you can choose Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D and Medicare Supplement plan. IEP 2 is open for the same seven-month window as the IEP.

Medicare Special Enrollment Period

This is among the most complex Medicare enrollment periods. The Special Enrollment Period is unavailable for every Medicare beneficiary, and you must prove your qualification to be eligible. The Special Enrollment Period is provided for late enrolling for Original Medicare when initially qualified with creditable coverage. One of the reasons for delaying Original Medicare coverage is still being in employment when one turns 65. When your employer coverage ends, you will have a Special Enrollment Period that allows you to get into Original Medicare. If you’re eligible, this period lasts eight months from when your employer coverage ends. After enrolling in Original Medicare, there will be a 63-day period to obtain Medicare Part D. It is essential to enroll in drug coverage after losing employer benefits as you’ll avoid penalties for late enrollment for Medicare Part D.

You also qualify for the Special Enrollment Period if you are on Medicare Part D or a Medicare Advantage plan and undergo a life-changing event. Such an event includes:

• Gaining or losing Medicaid coverage

• Moving out or into a nursing home

• Your current plan no longer covers your area

• When you move out of your plan’s area of service

• Losing or getting approved for Extra Help benefits

General Enrollment Period for Delayed Medicare Coverage

Assuming you don’t enroll in Original Medicare during the IEP and have no creditable coverage. You will have to wait for the General Enrollment Period to obtain Original Medicare, from January 1- March 31 yearly. When you enroll at this time, the coverage starts working on the 1st of the subsequent month.

Enrolling in Original Medicare in the General Enrollment Period may attract a penalty for late enrollment. The penalty depends on the length of the delayed Medicare benefits devoid of creditable coverage. Therefore, it would be best to enroll in Medicare coverage upon qualification or lose creditable coverage so as not to avoid the penalty for late enrollment.

Is There a Medicare Annual Enrollment Period?

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period happens yearly, starting from October 15 – December 7. The period enables Original Medicare enrollees to change some aspects of their coverage, including:

• Getting Medicare Advantage after dropping Original Medicare or vice versa

• Switching Medicare Advantage plans

• Dropping, changing or enrolling for Medicare Part D

Rules vary on the changes you make and when you make them.