Once you turn 65, you must enroll in a Medicare plan. You might also elect to enroll in a supplemental plan, depending upon your healthcare and insurance needs. Then, each year you can make changes to those plans, if you and your doctor decide that a change will benefit you.
But of course, the process for enrolling and disenrolling in Medicare plans can be a bit confusing. To help you understand what to do next, we’re providing this simple timeline.
Your Initial Coverage Election Period begins three months before your 65th birthday, lasts for the entire month of that birthday, and then extends for three months afterward. During this time, you must sign up for Medicare during this time period, or risk paying higher premiums for life if you sign up later.
If you’re receiving benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. If not, it’s your responsibility to initiate the enrollment process for these types of health insurance, and to evaluate your need for Part C, Part D, or Medigap coverage.
The General Enrollment Period operates from January 1 through March 31 each year. If you somehow missed your Initial Coverage Election Period, you can sign up for Medicare during this time. Coverage will begin on July 1 of that year.
The Annual Election Period, commonly called Open Enrollment, runs from October 15 through December 7 of each year. During this time, those of you who are already enrolled can evaluate necessary changes to your health insurance plan, and enroll in a different Medicare plan if desired. During this time each year, pay attention to mail sent to you by Medicare. These notices will detail any changes to your current plan. Also, talk to your doctor about anticipated healthcare needs for the next year. Switching to a different Medicare plan, or adding a supplemental plan, might help you save money. Changes to your coverage take effect on January 1.
From January 1 through February 14, the Special Disenrollment Period allows you to leave a Medicare Advantage Plan and switch to Original Medicare, if you so desire.
We hope this timeline helped to simplify Medicare facts for you. If you need any additional assistance, please give us a call. We can answer your questions and help you compare Medicare plans, so that you can locate the policy that best fits your needs.