Medicare Enrollment Period

Anyone who has elected to retire before the age of 65 or who is already receiving benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) is automatically enrolled in Original Medicare Part A and Part B when he/she turns 65. People who fall into either of these categories should get a red, white and blue Medicare card in the mail. You will still need to sign up for Part D, Part C and Medigap policies.

Enrollment period for Medicare include:

  • Initial Enrollment Period
  • Annual Open Enrollment Periods
  • Special Enrollment Periods

Auntie Lou says, "You can forget to feed the dog, pay the electric bill, go to church but DON'T forget to enroll in Medicare…Early!"

The "Initial Enrollment Period" includes the 7 months surrounding your 65th birthday month. This includes three months before your birthday, your birthday month and the three months after your birthday month.

During your Initial Enrollment Period you will have the opportunity to sign up for any of the Medicare Plans without incurring a financial penalty. At this time you have what are known as "Guaranteed Issue Rights." Guaranteed Issue Rights mean that you can choose whatever plans you want and the company cannot deny you for ANY reason. If you do not sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period because of Special Circumstances try to save all the documentation related to your interactions with Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period. Save this documentation for your Special Enrollment Period just in case the rules change and you need it to protect your Guaranteed Issue Rights. Special Enrollment also allows you to avoid any additional fees for late enrollment

Even though you have seven months in your Initial Enrollment Period you should apply during the three months BEFORE your birthday month. If you don't, your coverage will be delayed. There is one final twist to the Initial Enrollment Period. Currently you have six months from the time you are enrolled in Part B and turn 65 to sign up for a Medigap policy.

If your birthday falls on the first of the month your coverage will start on the first, one month prior to your birthday month. For everyone else, coverage will start on the first day of your birthday month.

Annual Open Enrollment allows you to sign up for Medicare if you have missed your Initial Enrollment or want to change plans. You may sign up for Part A and Part B between January 1 and March 31 of every year and your coverage will begin July 1. You can sign up and change plans for Part C and Part D from October 15th to Dec 7th. You can also change back to Original Medicare (Part A and B) during this time.

Special Enrollment Periods allow people to sign up for Medicare outside of the Initial and Open Enrollment Period without being penalized. If you are still employed, are moving in and out of any institution or move out of your plan's service area you will qualify for Special Enrollment. Changes in Medicaid status or your spouse's employment status may also qualify you for Special Enrollment. Medicare Cost Plan and PACE Plan members who cancel their coverage also qualify for Special Enrollment. Anyone with special circumstances should contact Medicare directly to learn more about Special Enrollment.