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When To Enroll In Original Medicare. The Ins and Outs of Enrollment Periods.

Unless you are currently receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board Benefits, or are still employed and have coverage when you turn 65, you will need to sign up for Original Medicare yourself.

The timeframe for enrolling in Original Medicare is called an enrollment period.  For most people, there are two Medicare enrollment periods during each calendar year.

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

Happy 65th Birthday! The Initial Enrollment Period is for those who are turning 65, and it’s the first year you are eligible to receive Original Medicare benefits. IEP begins three months before you turn 65, continues during your birth month and ends three months after you turn 65, creating a 7-month enrollment window. It is important to enroll during this time to avoid late enrollment fees and a lapse in health coverage.

If you sign up for Original Medicare in the 3-months before your birth month, your benefits will be effective the 1st day of your birth month. If you sign up during your birth month or the three months following, your benefits will start on the 1st day of the following month. For example, if your birthday is July 15, you can enroll from April to June with benefits beginning July 1. If you enroll in your birth month of July, your benefits will be effective August 1.

During the Initial Enrollment Period, you are eligible to enroll in:

  • Medicare Hospital Insurance (Part A)
  • Medicare Medical Insurance (Part B)
  • Medicare Advantage (Part C)
  • Medicare drug plan (Part D)

General Enrollment Period (GEP)

If you missed the Initial Enrollment Period, you can still sign up for Original Medicare during the General Enrollment Period. GEP runs from January 1 to March 31. Since GEP is only for those turning 65 and missed IEP, a late enrollment penalty fee will be incurred. Enrolling during this time will also cause a lapse in health coverage as benefits will not be available until July 1.

During the General Enrollment Period, you are eligible to enroll in:

  • Medicare Hospital Insurance (Part A)
  • Medicare Insurance (Part B)

You are eligible to get additional coverage for Medicare Advantage (Part C) and a Medicare drug plan (Part D) between April 1 and June 30 of the same calendar year.

There are certain situations that allow you to enroll in Original Medicare outside of the GEP without paying a late enrollment penalty. To learn more please visit https://www.medicare.gov.