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When is my Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

Around your 65th birthday (or 25th disability check), there is a 7-month window of time when you can sign up for Original Medicare Part A and Part B – it is called your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP for short).  Your IEP includes the month of your 65th birthday, the three months before, and the three months after.


What happens if I miss my Initial Enrollment Period?

If you miss your IEP, there is a General Enrollment Period (GEP) for those who did not sign up around their 65th birthday.  You could face late enrollment penalties if you wait too long to sign up and do not qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

The GEP is January 1 – March 31 every year.  Here is what you need to know:

  • you can enroll in Part A, Part B, or both during this time
  • you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty
  • you may be eligible to enroll in a Medicare Supplement insurance plan, a Part C Medicare Advantage plan, or a Part D Prescription Drug plan


When is the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)?

Each year, the Annual Election Period (AEP) runs from October 15th through December 7th.  This is a specific time frame when Medicare beneficiaries have the option to make changes to certain types of Medicare health insurance plans.  Any changes made during AEP will take effect January 1st of the upcoming year.

Here are some of the scenarios that can take place during AEP:

·       take no action – your existing plan will be renewed automatically as of January 1st

·       change your Prescription Drug plan

·       change your Medicare Advantage plan – no ESRD restrictions

·       switch from Original Medicare Part A and Part B to Part C Medicare Advantage

·       switch from Part C Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare Part A and Part B


What are Special Enrollment Periods (SEP)?

A Special Enrollment Period (SEP) lets you make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Prescription Drug plan coverage outside of the regular enrollment periods.

For people who work past 65 and qualify to delay Original Medicare Part A and Part B with creditable employer coverage, there is an 8-month SEP that allows you to enroll in Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D without late penalties.

You also qualify for a SEP if you have had certain life events – losing health coverage, moving, getting married, having a baby, or adopting a child.  Depending on your SEP type, you may have only 60 days following the event to enroll in a plan without incurring late penalties.


Am I automatically enrolled in Medicare at 65?

If you are not already receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits when you turn 65, you will have to sign up for Medicare yourself.  Medicare may not notify you about your eligibility, so be sure to know your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) dates and put them in your calendar.

It is best to sign up for Medicare toward the start of your IEP – that way your coverage will begin as soon as you are eligible.  If you sign up during the month you turn 65 or later, the effective date of your coverage could be delayed.

If you are currently receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, you may be automatically enrolled.  You will receive your Medicare card in the mail before your 65th birthday, and you will still have an IEP during which you may make Medicare coverage decisions.


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There is a lot to learn about Medicare.  We can help you understand the basics, different coverage options, enrollment periods, and more.  With helpful resources and tools, you can make confident and prudent Medicare decisions.

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