LEARNING CAFE RECAP: Medicare Enrollment Periods

In this issue's Learning Café recap, Medicare Specialist Joshua Hunter talks about a topic that has been confusing seniors for decades: Medicare enrollment periods.

What are the major enrollment periods for Medicare? How do they work? Who is affected? 

Watch the video to see Joshua talk about the various enrollment periods, or read the transcript below.

First, there’s the Initial Enrollment Period. This happens when a person is first eligible for Medicare. The usual age of eligibility for most people is 65. The Initial Enrollment Period lasts for seven months. It starts three months before the month of your 65th birthday, continues during the month of your birthday, and extends three months after the month of your birthday. In my opinion, the Initial Enrollment Period is the most important enrollment period of them all because it’s when you choose your path with Medicare and get everything set up. Any mistakes you make here can create financial penalties that could haunt you for a lifetime. It’s important to get it right the first time.

The next Medicare enrollment period is called the Annual Enrollment Period, often called Open Enrollment. Running from October 15 through December 7 each year, the Annual Enrollment Period allows beneficiaries to review their current Medicare Part D drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans and make changes for the upcoming year. Any changes made during the Annual Enrollment timeframe go into effect on January 1st of the following year. If you’re on Medicare, it’s vital that you check on your plan and make sure that you have the best coverage for the upcoming year. If you don’t, you could be missing out on serious savings. I mean SERIOUS savings. Like thousands of dollars per year.

The third enrollment period is called the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, which runs from January 1st through March 31st each year. This enrollment period comes around each year as an added benefit to those on Medicare Advantage Plans. If you’re already on a Medicare Advantage Plan, this enrollment period allows you to either change to another Medicare Advantage Plan or even switch back to Original Medicare with a Part D Plan. Keep in mind that changing back to Original Medicare with a Part D Plan will not award Guaranteed Issue Rights for a supplement! It’s possible that you could be subject to medical underwriting and potentially even denied coverage.

Fourth on our list of Medicare enrollment periods is the General Enrollment Period, which runs from January 1st to March 31st each year. This enrollment period is for people who didn’t sign up for Part A and/or Part B coverage when they were first eligible for it. Any changes made during this enrollment period go into effect on July 1st of the current year. If you don’t have creditable coverage, a penalty will be placed on your premium and that penalty will be calculated through July since that’s when coverage actually begins.

And last on our list of Medicare enrollment periods are the Special Enrollment Periods. These kick in when certain life-changing events occur, such as moving into a new home, moving into a long-term care facility or losing creditable coverage. When these life events happen, Medicare awards this special enrollment period to allow you to pick up new coverage. In most instances, changes you make during a Special Enrollment Period are effective the first day of the month following the month in which you made the change. Just know that if you have a major change in your life, it is worth consulting with a professional to determine if you might qualify for a special enrollment period. 

So. What are main takeaways? There are three. Number one: Medicare has a lot of rules. Number two: there are sometimes exceptions to the rules. Number three: there are penalties lurking around every corner. That’s why it’s important to stay vigilant and get help when you need it.

To learn more about Medicare Enrollment periods and when they apply, go to medicare.gov and type “Medicare Enrollment Periods” in the search box, or call 1-800-Medicare.

That’s it for today’s Learning Café recap. If you have any questions, just give our office a call.

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