What is the Medicare General Enrollment Period?

Most people understand that Medicare has certain enrollment periods, but there is one period not well known, called the General Enrollment Period. This enrollment period runs from January 1 through March 31 of each year.

The General Enrollment Period is a general time to enroll in Medicare if for some reason the person didn’t enroll within the other specified periods. Be aware that coverage will not begin until the following July 1 after enrollment, and Part B premium penalties may apply.

For more information about Medicare enrollment, visit www.ssa.gov or call SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). More details can also be found at https://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10043.pdf.

Other Enrollment Periods

Individuals who want premium Part A, Part B or both may only enroll during certain enrollment periods that are outlined in law. The following enrollment periods apply to both premium Part A and Part B:

  • Initial enrollment period
  • General enrollment period, and
  • Special enrollment period for the working aged and the working disabled

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

The IEP is a 7-month period that begins 3 months before the month a person turns 65 and ends 3 months after the person turns 65. For someone under age 65 who becomes entitled to Medicare based on disability, entitlement begins with the 25th month of disability benefit entitlement. For these individuals, the IEP begins 3 months before the 25th month of disability benefit entitlement, includes the 25th month, and ends three months after. The IEP for people with ESRD and ALS varies based on their situation.

Coverage begins based on when you enroll during the IEP.  If a person enrolls in the first 3 months of the IEP, coverage begins the first month the person is eligible for Medicare. If a person enrolls in any other month of the IEP, coverage will be delayed. Disabled individuals are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B after they have received disability benefits from Social Security for 24 months.

NOTE: In most cases, if someone does not enroll in Part B or premium Part A when first eligible, they will have to pay a late enrollment penalty. The Part B penalty is assessed for as long as the person has Part B. 

General Enrollment Period (GEP)

The GEP takes place from January 1 through March 31 of each year. Part B and Premium Part A coverage begins July 1 of that same year.

Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for the Working Aged and Working Disabled.

Individuals who do not enroll in Part B or premium Part A when first eligible because they were covered under a group health plan based on their own or a spouse's current employment (or the current employment of a family member, if disabled) may enroll during the SEP. The individual can enroll at any time while covered under the group health plan based on current employment, or during the 8-month period that begins the month the employment ends or the group health plan coverage ends, whichever comes first.

NOTE: Individuals with ESRD are not eligible to enroll during the SEP.

Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for International Volunteers

Individuals who do not enroll in Part B or premium Part A when first eligible because they were performing volunteer service outside of the United States for at least 12 months on behalf of a tax-exempt organization and had health insurance that provided coverage for the duration of the volunteer service may enroll during this SEP.

 Source: https://www.cms.gov/medicare/eligibility-and-enrollment/origmedicarepartabeligenrol/index.html

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