Medicare: When To Apply

Older Adults - November 22nd, 2021

Reading Time: 3 Minute/s

Medicare: When To Apply

Older Adults

Medicare: When To Apply

Posted on November 22nd, 2021 - Reading Time: 3 Minute/s

Medicare timelines and deadlines you should know

If you read our beginner’s guide to Medicare plans, you know the basics of what’s out there and what kind of health plan may be right for you. Maybe you’ve already picked a plan you want.

“So when can I apply for my Medicare plan?” you may be wondering.

Well, that depends on who you are, how old you are, and whether you already have a Medicare health plan. We’re here to walk through the basics.

Enrollment Periods

There are three main timeframes when you can sign up for Medicare:

It’s important to be aware of timing to make sure you have coverage when you need it and to avoid late fees.

Initial Enrollment Period

7 months, usually during the year you turn 65

Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) occurs when you first become eligible to enroll in Medicare. For most people, you become eligible for Medicare the month you turn 65 years old. However, your IEP is longer than just that month.

Your initial enrollment period is actually 7 months long:

seven monthly calendar page icons

This period includes the 3 months before your 65th birthday, your birthday month, and the 3 months following your birthday. During these 7 months, you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare plan. Your coverage will start after you turn 65.

Unlike other enrollment periods, this one is specific to you. And it only happens once! If you can, you should sign up for Medicare during your IEP to avoid paying late penalties.

Annual Enrollment Period

October 15 – December 7

Medicare Annual Enrollment starts October 15 and ends on December 7. These dates are the same every year, so mark your calendar!

This is an opportunity for people already enrolled in Medicare to make changes to their plans. If you haven’t enrolled in Medicare yet, you’ll need to wait until your Initial Enrollment Period (see above) or the General Enrollment Period (see below).

Medicare plans often announce their new benefits and changes to their plans on October 1, which gives you two weeks to review and compare plans before the enrollment period begins.

Don’t miss out!

Annual Enrollment is October 15 to December 7.

Wish you were getting more out of your Medicare plan? This is a great time to explore your options. CHPW’s Medicare experts can help.

General Enrollment Period

January 1 – March 31

Let’s say you get to December 8, after Medicare Annual Enrollment ends, and decide you want to change your plan. Is it too late?

For example, what if you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and you experience an increased premium? Or what if the benefits aren’t what you’d hoped for?

No need to fret: If you realize after December 7 that you want to make a plan change, there’s a second enrollment opportunity, called the General Enrollment Period (GEP), from January 1 to March 31. During GEP, Medicare beneficiaries have a one-time chance to choose a different Medicare plan.

You can switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan, or drop Medicare Advantage for Original Medicare. If you missed your Initial Enrollment Period, you can enroll in Medicare during GEP (but you may have to pay a late fee).

Learn more

CHPW has additional resources to help find the best plan for you:

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