If you’re approaching Medicare eligibility, it is important to know the various times to sign up for this important milestone. Here are the enrollment periods that might help you determine what your eligibility is and whether you need to sign up for Medicare at all.
Initial Enrollment Period – Period three months before your 65th birthday month, your birthday month, and three months following your birthday month. You are guaranteed issue (no underwriting) for the plan you select.
Annual Enrollment Period – Period every year between October 15 and December 7 when you can change your Medicare Advantage Plan or Prescription Drug Plan.
Open Enrollment Period – Additional period of time from January 1 through March 31 when you can change your Medicare Advantage Plan. You can also return to Original Medicare with or without a drug plan.
Retirement/Loss of Group Health Insurance – Period of time once you retire or lose creditable group coverage to sign up for Medicare and a Supplemental, Advantage Plan and/or Part D Drug plan.
Supplemental Plan Birthday Rule – Period that allows you to change your Supplemental plan that begins 30 days before your birthday up to 30 days after your birthday.
Special Enrollment Period – Period of time to change your Medicare Advantage plan or Part D drug plan because of a life event, i.e., moving out of service area, qualifying for Low Income Subsidy.
If you are still actively working and have a creditable (as good as Medicare) group employee health insurance plan, you may be able to keep the plan until you retire and delay signing up for Medicare without incurring penalties. Check with your benefit’s administrator to see if this is a viable option for you.