Medicare General Enrollment Period

If you miss your seven-month initial enrollment period for Medicare, you have another chance to sign up during the general enrollment period. It lasts from Jan. 1 to March 31 each year, and your new coverage begins July 1.

What Is the General Enrollment Period for Medicare?

The Medicare general enrollment period happens every year between Jan. 1 and March 31.

If you miss initial enrollment — or the seven-month window when you first become eligible to sign up for Medicare — the general enrollment period is an opportunity to sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B for the first time.

The general enrollment period is different from a special enrollment period. Several situations may qualify you for special enrollment, including moving to a new home or losing employer health insurance.

You can only apply for Medicare during the general enrollment period if both of the following apply:
  1. You didn't sign up when you were first eligible.
  2. You aren’t eligible for a special enrollment period.

Once you’re signed up, your coverage will begin July 1.

Delaying Medicare Part B Enrollment

If you worked and paid Medicare payroll taxes for at least 10 years, you will not pay a premium for Medicare Part A.

However, Medicare Part B does include a monthly premium. You may want to delay enrollment in Part B depending on your situation.

The primary way to delay Part B without a penalty is by actively working at age 65 and staying on your employer’s group health insurance.

You may also avoid the penalty if you’re covered under your spouse’s employer group plan.

When you retire, you will have a special enrollment period to sign up for Part B. In this situation, you do not have to wait until the Medicare Part B general enrollment period to sign up.

Tip
You can apply online to enroll in Medicare Part B or you can mail a completed Application for Enrollment in Medicare Part B (Form CMS 40B) to your local Social Security office.

Late Enrollment Penalties for General Enrollment Period

If you must pay for Medicare Part A but didn’t purchase it when you first became eligible for Medicare, your monthly premium may increase 10 percent.

You will be required to pay this higher premium for twice the number of years you waited to sign up.

For example, if you’ve been eligible for Part A for four years, you will need to pay a higher premium for eight years.

There’s also a penalty for delaying Part B coverage.

If you didn’t get Part B when you first became eligible, your monthly premium can go up 10 percent for each 12-month period you waited to enroll.

The longer you wait to sign up, the more it will cost. This higher monthly premium stays with you as long as you have Part B coverage.

For example, let’s assume your initial enrollment period ended January 2020.

If you waited until the general enrollment period in January 2022 to sign up for Part B, your monthly Part B premium penalty will be 20 percent higher.

This penalty remains in effect for as long as you receive Part B coverage.

Usually, you don’t have to pay a late enrollment penalty for Part A or Part B if you qualify for a special enrollment period. This can include losing your workplace health insurance after retiring.

General Enrollment for Medicare Advantage and Part D

If you sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B during general enrollment, you will have a different opportunity to sign up for a Medicare Advantage (Part C) or Part D prescription drug plan.

This special enrollment period for Medicare Advantage and Part D runs from April through June.

Your coverage will begin July 1.

Last Modified: July 31, 2020

5 Cited Research Articles

  1. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (n.d.). CMS 40B: Form Title Application for Enrollment in Medicare - Part B. Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/CMS-Forms/CMS-Forms/CMS-Forms-Items/CMS017339
  2. Medicare.gov. (n.d.). How do I get Parts A & B? Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/how-do-i-get-parts-a-b
  3. Medicare.gov. (n.d.). Part A & Part B sign up periods. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/how-do-i-get-parts-a-b/part-a-part-b-sign-up-periods
  4. Medicare.gov. (n.d.). Part A late enrollment penalty. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/part-a-costs/part-a-late-enrollment-penalty
  5. Medicare.gov. (n.d.). Part B late enrollment penalty. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/part-b-costs/part-b-late-enrollment-penalty