To receive Medicare benefits, you must enroll when you become eligible during the Medicare Enrollment Periods. There are different Medicare enrollment periods and they allow new enrollees to register while existing beneficiaries can switch or review their Medicare plans.
The Initial Enrollment Period
The Initial Enrollment Period is the best time for newly eligible persons to enroll for Medicare. The Initial Enrollment Period starts three months before turning 65 and ends three months after turning 65. People who were automatically enrolled for Medicare or those who receive Social Security disability benefits do not need to enroll manually during this period.
People who do not fall under this category will need to enroll for Medicare during the Initial Enrollment Period to avoid the late enrollment penalty. If you fail to enroll for Medicare during the IEP, then you will pay a late enrollment penalty when you later enroll.
Also, during the Initial Enrollment Period, you can enroll for a Part D prescription drug plan or a Medicare Advantage plan.
General Enrollment Period
The General Enrollment Period is the next enrollment period. During this period, people who missed the Initial Enrollment Period can register for Medicare. The General Enrollment Period starts on January 1 and ends on March 31. Medicare coverage will then become active on July 1.
Annual Enrollment Period
During the Annual Enrollment Period, you can make changes to Medicare plans. You can move to a Medicare Advantage plan from Original Medicare or vice versa, switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan, enroll or switch Part D plans, or drop a plan. The Annual Enrollment Period starts on October 15 and ends on December 7. The changes become active on January 1 of the next year.
Special Enrollment Period
The Special Enrollment period allows people to sign up for Medicare or choose a new Medicare Advantage plan or plan provider depending on some special circumstances. For example, if you move outside the service area or your plan provider stops the plan, then you may be qualified for a Special Enrollment Period.
Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period
There are other enrollment periods, such as the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period. This six-month period begins once you are 65 years old and enrolled in both Parts A and B. During this period, you can enroll in a Medicare Supplement Plan without being denied because of your medical history. Insurers will also not increase premiums because of your medical history. However, if you miss this period, insurers have the right to deny you coverage, charge more for premiums, and ask you questions about your medical history.
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