At Jeffery Insurance, we want Medicare beneficiaries to stay informed about coverage. That includes being aware of important dates! Like when to enroll in Medicare, when coverage start dates are, and when your window for switching or updating your plan is. Here is a comprehensive list of important Medicare dates and timelines you should remember.
Initial Enrollment Period
If you’re turning 65 soon, you’re probably thinking about enrolling in a Medicare plan. But when are you allowed to sign up? It’s not just during your birthday month – you actually have a seven-month window to enroll in Medicare during this period known as your initial enrollment period. This begins three months before the month you turn 65, through your birthday month and three months after the month you turn 65.
During this time, you can enroll in:
- Original Medicare (Parts A and B)
- A prescription drug plan (Part D)
- A Medicare Advantage plan (Part C)
If you don’t sign up for Part A, Part B, or Part D when you’re first eligible and don’t then qualify for any special enrollment periods, you could face penalties in the form of higher premiums.
Medicare Enrollment if You Have Employer Healthcare Coverage
But what if you have group healthcare coverage through your employer and you’re 65? What then?
If you have group healthcare coverage, you may be able to delay Medicare until you retire without penalty. For example, if you or your spouse works for an employer with 20 or more employees and you’re signed up for group healthcare coverage, you can delay your Medicare coverage. If you work for an employer with less than 20 employees, it’s best to not delay your Medicare. In this instance, even if you have group healthcare coverage, you could be subjected to penalty fees.
If you choose to delay signing up for Medicare after you become eligible because of your group healthcare coverage, you’ll have a special enrollment period of eight months to sign up for Part B penalty-free after your employment or your employer healthcare coverage ends. If you meet the requirements to get premium-free Part A coverage, you can sign up any time after you’re eligible. However, if you don’t qualify for premium-free Part A, sign up as soon as you’re eligible to avoid penalties.
Open Enrollment Period
If you miss your initial enrollment period, the open enrollment period is the time to enroll in these plans. This period takes place from January 1 to March 31 every year. If you sign up for Medicare plans during the open enrollment period, your coverage will begin on July 1.
Again, keep in mind that if you missed your initial enrollment period and don’t qualify for a special enrollment period, signing up through the open enrollment period will mean you have to pay higher premiums.
Annual Enrollment Period
While the annual enrollment period isn’t a time you can technically enroll in Medicare, it’s an important period to be aware of! During the annual enrollment period, you can make changes to your current Medicare plans. This period occurs from October 15 to December 7 each year.
During this period, you can:
- Switch from an Original Medicare plan to a Medicare Advantage plan
- Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to an Original Medicare plan
- Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan
- Join, switch, or drop a Medicare prescription plan.
This period is available because Part D and Medicare Advantage plans can re-file their benefits with Medicare annually. When they re-file, benefits and premiums are subject to change. If you’re not happy with the changes, the annual enrollment period allows you a chance to change your coverage.
As long as your plan administrator receives your request before the end of this period, your coverage will begin on January 1.
Annual Notice of Change
Your annual notice of change letter will detail any changes in coverage, costs, or providers that will take place starting in January of the following year. This helpful letter will help you decide if you want to make changes to your coverage during the annual enrollment period.
Your plan provider will send you this letter every September. You should review the changes to decide whether your current plan will meet your needs and budget for next year. Contact your plan provider if you don’t receive an annual notice of change by the end of September.
Medicare Card Delivery Date
Your Medicare card is important as you’ll need to present it to your healthcare provider when accessing care or services under Medicare. Your Medicare card delivery timeline depends if you were automatically enrolled or not:
- Automatically enrolled – You’ll receive your card 3 months before Medicare coverage starts or the 25th month of getting disability benefits.
- Not automatically enrolled – two weeks after signing up for Medicare or Social Security benefits.
Jeffery Insurance is Always Here to Help
We want to keep you informed so you know when to enroll in Medicare and when to change your coverage. If you need help changing your plans or understanding the (often confusing) nuances of Medicare, we are always here to help. Our team is here to help you understand Medicare and answer any questions you have about its coverage and your plan. We are based in Scottsdale but are happy to assist you no matter where you are in Arizona. We are Arizona’s health care resource!