There are several Medicare Enrollment Periods. Medicare Part A and Part B and Private Medicare plans can have different enrollment periods.
Medicare Part A and Part B is the health insurance provided by the government. It consists of both Part A or hospital insurance, and Part B, or doctor visits and outpatient coverage.
There are three enrollment periods for Medicare Part A and Part B. First is the Initial Enrollment Period, which is the 7 months surrounding your 65th birthday. It begins 3 months before you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends 3 months after you turn 65. Those who are under 65 and disabled can also enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B.
Those who are over 65 are eligible if they paid federal taxes for at least 10 working years. If you already receive benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare. If you do not yet receive these benefits, or have questions about your eligibility for Medicare Part A and Part B, check with the government or visit Medicare.gov.
The General Enrollment Period is available to those who missed the Initial Enrollment Period. It begins on January 1st and ends on March 31st. If you sign up during General Enrollment, your coverage will begin on July 1st. It is important not to miss the Initial Enrollment Period because you may face higher premiums.
The third opportunity to sign up for Medicare Part and Part B is during the Special Enrollment Period. Note that this enrollment period is only open to those who are 65 or older who currently have, or recently lost, employer-based coverage. The Special Enrollment Period ends 8 months after you lost your employer-based coverage, whether you lost your own coverage, or your spouses’ coverage. If you miss this 8-month Special Enrollment period, you would have to wait until the General Enrollment Period to sign up.
Learn more about Medicare Part A and Part B here.
Private Medicare plans are available to those looking to receive additional health benefits, or to close the gaps in Medicare Part A and Part B coverage. They may lower your out-of-pocket costs by helping pay for deductibles, coinsurance, and prescription drugs.
There are three types of Private Medicare plans, each with different enrollment periods. They are Medigap, Medicare Advantage, and Part D options.
The Medigap Enrollment Period begins 6 months after you turn 65. Those who are under 65 may be eligible to enroll if they are disabled. You must already be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B to be eligible for Medigap, also known as Medicare Supplement.
If you miss the Medigap Enrollment Period, you could still get a plan, but you may face higher premiums or even denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. In this case, it is recommended to shop around as some carriers may enroll you at a lower rate than others.
Learn more about Medigap plans here.
Medicare Advantage and Part D Prescription Drug Plans have three nearly identical enrollment periods.
First is the Initial Enrollment Period, which is the 7-month period surrounding your 65th birthday. This period starts 3 months before you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends 3 months after you turn 65. Those who are under 65 may be eligible to enroll if they are disabled. If you miss the Initial Enrollment Period, you can sign up during the Open Enrollment period.
The Open Enrollment period in 2020 begins on October 15 and ends on December 7. If you currently have a Medicare plan, you can switch to a new plan during the Open Enrollment period.
Those who missed the Initial Enrollment or Open Enrollment periods may still have a chance to enroll in a plan during the Special Enrollment Period. To qualify for enrolling in a plan during the Special Enrollment period, you must have experienced certain life changes, such as moving to a new state or losing health coverage. For Medicare Advantage, you might still have the opportunity to get covered any time a highly-rated plan, known as a "5-star plan," becomes newly available in your state.
Learn more about Medicare Advantage plans here and Part D plans here.
If you are not sure about your enrollment eligibility, please submit your zip code to begin comparing Medigap, Medicare Advantage, and Part D Prescription Drug options.