When is Your Medicare Enrollment Period?

The details of Medicare can sometimes be intimidating, but figuring out your Medicare enrollment period doesn’t have to be difficult. There are four different Medicare enrollment periods, each with different eligibility requirements. Here’s a breakdown:

Initial Enrollment Period

Your Initial Enrollment Period is the first time you can sign up as someone eligible for Medicare. Your Initial Enrollment Period is a seven-month window determined by the month you turn 65, based on this formula:

Three months before the month you turn 65 ➔ The month you turn 65 ➔ Three months after the month you turn 65

During your Initial Enrollment Period you may join Medicare Parts A and B (also referred to, together, as Original Medicare), and Part D (prescription drug coverage). You can also enroll in Part C (Medicare Advantage), but if you do, you are not allowed to enroll in Parts A and B.

  • Medicare Part A covers all inpatient hospital needs. This means that if there were ever a need for hospitalization, Part A would ensure that you have coverage for your stay and for other expenses related to the hospital visit. Medicare Part A covers 80 percent of these expenses, meaning that you pay the remaining 20 percent. Medicare Part A coverage is free for the majority of Medicare enrollees. Most people don’t pay a monthly premium for Part A.
  • Medicare Part B covers all outpatient needs. This means that if you need to go to the doctor for any reason, such as a checkup, sickness, or routine services, Medicare will cover the bulk of the cost of your visit. For 2020, the standard Part B premium amount is $144.60 (your premium may be higher depending on your income).
  • Medicare Part C, or a Medicare Advantage Plan, is an “all in one” alternative to Original Medicare. These plans are offered by private companies approved by Medicare. These “bundled” plans include Medicare Part A and Part B and usually Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage). Some Medicare Advantage Plans also offer extra coverage, like vision, hearing and dental coverage.
  • Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs. You must have a Part D plan to receive coverage on your prescription drugs.

Though it depends on your circumstances, your Initial Enrollment Period is typically the best time to enroll. You may face late enrollment penalties if you wait past your Initial Enrollment Period.

If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period, you may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period.

Special Enrollment Period

If you delay signing up for Medicare, or miss your Initial Enrollment Period, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Depending on why you missed your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period, there are a number of factors that determine whether you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Some of these possibilities include a change in where you live, a loss of current coverage, and your plan changing its contract with Medicare.

The dates of your Special Enrollment Period depend on what your qualifying circumstances are. If a Special Enrollment Period doesn’t apply to you, and you missed your Initial Enrollment Period, you may be able to enroll during the Annual Enrollment Period or General Enrollment Period.

Annual Enrollment Period

The Annual Enrollment Period, also known as Open Enrollment, is typically October 15 to December 7. At this time, you can make changes to your current Medicare plan or enroll for the first time. Whether you’re changing from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan (or vice versa) or adding a prescription drug plan, the Annual Enrollment Period is a great time to make changes to your plan, especially if you didn’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

General Enrollment Period

If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period and you don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, you may be able to enroll in Medicare during the General Enrollment Period, which takes place between January 1 and March 31 of each year. If you enroll during this time and it is past your Initial Enrollment Period, your coverage will begin July 1.

Medicare supplement insurance

In addition to the enrollment periods above, you can sign up for Medicare supplement insurance at any time. Medicare supplement insurance health insurance that you buy from a private company to pay health care costs not covered by Original Medicare, such as copayments, deductibles, and health