As of January 1, 2024, when you enroll in a Part A or Part B plan because of an exceptional situation, you will have 2 months to join a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Part D plan. Coverage for this plan will also start one month after the plan receives your request to join.
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- Reviewed ByMichael Jones
Medicare Expert and Owner of Grand Anchor Insurance Solutions
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- Published: February 22, 2023
- Updated: November 2, 2023
- 8 min read time
- This page features 9 Cited Research ArticlesKey Takeaways
- The general enrollment period is from Jan. 1 to March 31 and is intended for new enrollees who didn’t sign up when they were first eligible.
- The annual open enrollment period is from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 and is intended for those with preexisting Medicare coverage looking to change plans.
- The Medicare Advantage open enrollment period is from Jan. 1 to March 31.
- The initial enrollment period and Medicare supplement open enrollment period dates vary depending on your birthday.
- There are specific circumstances to qualify for a special enrollment period.
What Are the Medicare Enrollment Periods?
There are six Medicare enrollment periods. Each period gives you a different timeframe to sign up for Medicare coverage. A list of factors will help you determine when your enrollment period is, including what type of Medicare plan you’re looking for, if it’s your first time signing up, your birthday and specific exceptions.The Six Medicare Enrollment Periods
- Initial enrollment period
- Medicare Advantage open enrollment period
- Medicare Supplement open enrollment period
- Annual enrollment period
- General enrollment period
- Special enrollment period
While general open enrollment, annual enrollment and Medicare Advantage open enrollment periods all have set dates for everyone, the special enrollment period, Medicare supplement open enrollment period and initial enrollment period are tailored to your birthday and specific circumstances.Be sure to give yourself enough time for your coverage to become active. It can take up to six weeks for Social Security to process your application for Medicare A & B.Enrollment Periods Tailored to Your Circumstances
- Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
- A seven month period. Begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after.
- Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
- Only eligible if you qualify for a specific event, such as being unable to sign up for Medicare due to a natural disaster.
- Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period
- Begins the month you turn 65 and ends five months after, totaling in a six-month window to sign up for a Medicare supplement plan.
Below is a calendar listing the dates for the other three periods: the general enrollment period (GEP), annual enrollment period (AEP) and Medicare Advantage enrollment period (MAOEP).
The general annual enrollment period is for new Medicare enrollees, whereas the annual enrollment period is for existing beneficiaries. If you’re already enrolled and looking to change your existing coverage, then you need to enroll during the annual enrollment period.Have you selected your 2024 Medicare plan?Maximize your Medicare savings by connecting with a licensed insurance agent. Annual Enrollment is open until December 7th.
Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare
Your initial enrollment period (IEP) begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after. For example, if you turn 65 in August this year, you are eligible to sign up starting in May. The last month you can sign up during your IEP is November.
As of Jan. 1, 2023, there is a shorter coverage gap between the time you sign up for your Medicare plan and the time your coverage starts. Previously, beneficiaries potentially went two to three months without coverage if they signed up during the last few months of their IEP.Initial Enrollment Period Coverage Rules
If you sign up: Your coverage starts: During the three months before you turn 65 The month you turn 65 The month you turn 65 or one to three months after The following month
General Enrollment Period
The general enrollment period (GEP) is for those looking to sign up for Medicare coverage for the first time and runs from Jan. 1 to March 31 every year.
You can only sign up during this time if you didn’t sign up when you were first eligible and if you don’t qualify for a special enrollment period. If you’re signing up after your initial enrollment period, you may face a monthly enrollment penalty.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there was an update to the GEP in 2023 that gives Medicare coverage quicker.
Previously, everyone had to wait until July 1 before coverage began. As of Jan. 1, 2023, you are be covered under Medicare the first day of the following month after you enroll.
Annual Open Enrollment Period
The Medicare annual open enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year.
Annual open enrollment periods are made available to beneficiaries because Medicare health and drug plans can make changes once per year. The Medicare open enrollment period gives you a chance to switch plans if you don’t like the changes made to your plan by your provider.
Potential plan changes include how much the plans cost, what it covers, and which pharmacies and health care providers are in the plan’s network.
Special Enrollment Periods for Medicare
Medicare special enrollment periods can happen any time during the year due to changes to your personal circumstances. For example, if you couldn’t sign up for Medicare due to an employer making a mistake and providing misinformation during your application — you qualify for a special enrollment period.Qualifying Events for a Special Enrollment Period
- If you were impacted by a public emergency or disaster
- If your employer provided inaccurate information during your Medicare enrollment
- If you were incarcerated during enrollment
- If you lost Medicaid coverage
- Moving somewhere outside of the coverage area of your current Medicare Advantage plan
- Phasing out of your employer’s health insurance plan
- Moving into or out of a skilled nursing facility, psychiatric facility, rehab hospital or long-term care facility
- Current Medicare Advantage provider ends its contract with Medicare
Late Enrollment Penalties
If you don’t qualify for the premium-free Part A, you could end up paying the late enrollment penalty of 10% of either $505 or $278, depending on which Part A premium you qualify for. According to AARP, the 10% penalty fee will last for twice the number of years you could have had Part A coverage but didn’t.
You can decline Part B coverage during initial enrollment if you don’t want to pay the premium — but applying for it later will cost you a monthly penalty. In 2024 the Part B premium is $174.70. The cost of your Part B monthly premium will increase by 10% for each 12-month period you were eligible but did not enroll.
You may also have to pay a late enrollment penalty on Medicare Part D if you go more than 63 days without creditable prescription drug coverage after your initial enrollment period ends. The late-enrollment fee for Part D is 1% of the national base premium, multiplied by the number of months you went without Part D coverage since your enrollment period. In 2024 the Part D national base premium is $34.70.Did You Know?While the Part A penalty is temporary, the Part B and Part D late enrollment penalties can last a lifetime. There is no late enrollment penalty fee for Medicare Advantage plans.
How To Enroll in Medicare
How you enroll in Medicare varies depending on which part or type you want to sign up for. If you want to sign up for a Medicare Advantage, Part D prescription plan or a Medigap plan — you can use Medicare’s plan finder tool to browse 2024 coverage options and costs.
Make sure you always compare costs and coverage before purchasing a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan.3 Minute Quiz: Can You Retire Comfortably?Take our free quiz & match with a financial advisor in 3 easy steps. Tailored to your goals. Near you or online.How To Enroll in Original Medicare
- Call the Social Security Administration toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
- Visit your local Social Security office. The agency has a Social Security office locator on its website.
- Apply online at the Social Security website.
Enrollment Application Process
Before submitting your application, you should first check your eligibility for Medicare.
For example, Original Medicare typically requires you to have at least 40 work credits, which equals to about 10 years of work, to qualify for coverage. You may qualify with less credits if you have a disability.
You should also make sure you have information prepared before you start your application.Information Needed To Sign Up for Medicare
- Your Social Security number
- Where you were born (city, state and county)
- The start and end dates for any group health plans
- Direct deposit information
Two weeks after your application has been approved, you can expect your welcome packet, which contains your Medicare card and other important information.
Medicare Enrollment FAQsWhat happens if I miss my Medicare enrollment period?If you miss your initial or special enrollment period, you can still enroll in Medicare during the next open enrollment period. But you may incur additional monthly penalties on your Medicare Part B and Part D premiums.When is the Medicare open enrollment period?The Medicare open enrollment period is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year. You will be able to enroll in Medicare coverage during that time if you didn't enroll during your initial or special enrollment period.What new exceptional situations to qualify for a special enrollment period were added in 2023?The new flexible exceptions to qualify you for a special enrollment period are if your employer provided inaccurate information for your enrollment or if you weren’t able to sign up due to a natural disaster or being incarcerated.Last Modified: November 2, 2023
9 Cited Research Articles
- U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2023). Joining a Health or Drug Plan. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/joining-a-health-or-drug-plan
- U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2023). When Does Medicare Coverage Start? Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/basics/get-started-with-medicare/sign-up/when-does-medicare-coverage-start
- U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2023). Special Circumstances (Special Enrollment Periods). Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/joining-a-health-or-drug-plan/special-circumstances-special-enrollment-periods
- U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2023). “Welcome to Medicare” Package (Not Automatically Enrolled). Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/basics/forms-publications-mailings/mailings/signing-up/welcome-to-medicare-package
- Ochieng, N. et al. (2022, December 15). Four Key Changes in the Biden Administration’s Final Rule on Medicare Enrollment and Eligibility. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/four-key-changes-in-the-biden-administrations-final-rule-on-medicare-enrollment-and-eligibility/
- Bystry, D. (2022, November 17). New Start Dates for Medicare Part B Coverage Coming in 2023. Retrieved from https://blog.ssa.gov/new-start-dates-for-medicare-part-b-coverage-coming-in-2023/
- O’Brien, S. (2022, November 15). New Medicare Enrollment Rules That Eliminate Coverage Gaps Take Effect in 2023. Here’s What You Need to Know. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2022/11/15/new-medicare-enrollment-rules-ending-coverage-gaps-take-effect-in-2023.html
- AARP. (2022, June 8). How Much Is the Late Enrollment Penalty for Medicare Part A? Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/medicare-qa-tool/how-much-is-the-part-a-late-enrollment-penalty/
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