Medicare has several types of enrollment periods to be aware of. Open enrollment periods can apply for Part A (Hospital Insurance), Part B (Medical Insurance) as well as for Medicare Supplemental plans, Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans and Medicare Prescription Drug (Part D) plans.
Most people apply for Medicare Part A & B two months before their 65th birthday and then get Medicare Supplemental insurance to help cover what’s not covered by Medicare Part’s A and B, as well as Part D prescription drug coverage or a Medicare Advantage plan.
Many others also can apply for both Medicare Part’s A & B, including individuals who:
- Are over 65 and retiring and/or will no longer have access to employer sponsored health insurance through their or a spouse’s employment or that employer coverage ended within the last 8 months (including COBRA).
- Are under 65, disabled and newly eligible for Medicare. People under age 65 become eligible for Medicare if they have received Social Security Disability Income payments for 24 months.
Timing wise, these people will want to apply for Medicare Part’s A & B with the Social Security Administration two months before their Medicare eligibility start date. For most people, Medicare Part A has no premium, whereas Medicare Part B does have an income based monthly premium, though exceptions may apply for those on Medicaid.
However, not everyone is retired at 65. People turning 65 who are covered by health insurance through their or a spouse’s employment and want to keep that employer coverage going forward, generally enroll in just Medicare Part A. Timing wise, these people typically apply for Medicare Part A with the Social Security Administration two months before their 65th birthday. For most people, Medicare Part A has no premium.
A Medicare General Enrollment Period is available for those who missed their initial open enrollment period. They can sign up for Medicare Part’s A and/or B between January 1st and March 31st each year. However, late enrollees may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for not enrolling when first eligible, so this is far from ideal.
Medicare Special Enrollment Periods can also apply for a variety of circumstances including:
- Address changes that impact your Medicare plan or options
- Leaving coverage through an employer, union or COBRA plan
- Loss of eligibility for Medicaid
May rules and stipulations apply, as per the Medicare.gov website.
Open enrollment for Medicare Supplements most commonly begins when when you turn 65 and enroll in Medicare Part A & B or for those who are over 65 and have employer sponsored health insurance coverage ending through their or a spouse’s employment and are enrolling in Medicare Part A and/or B.
During open enrollment you have a wide selection of Medicare supplemental coverage options and health insurance companies can not deny you coverage or charge a higher premium based on your health history, except for tobacco usage.
Medicare Open Enrollment for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans runs from October 15th through December 7th of each year. During this time, you can join, switch or drop a plan, with the new coverage taking effect on January 1st of the following year.
If you enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan during your Initial Enrollment Period, you can change to another Medicare Advantage Plan (with or without drug coverage) or go back to Original Medicare (with or without a drug plan) within the first 3 months you have Medicare. Also, between January 1st and March 31st it may be possible to make a one time change to a new Medicare Advantage plan or disenroll from Medicare Advantage and return to Original Medicare. Limitations and restrictions apply.