Medicare has several important deadlines for enrolling or altering coverage that can differ due to each person’s situation, explains USA Today’s recent article entitled “What are the key deadlines for Medicare enrollment?”
These instructions can be confusing, so let’s run them down:
Medicare Options. It’s important to distinguish between the two types of Medicare programs. The first is Traditional Medicare, which is the option chosen by more than half of Medicare Recipients. Traditional Medicare coverage is in effect all across the United States. There are no Networks of Providers and Precertification is not usually required before care is provided. Medicare Advantage Plans are HMOs managed by private companies. They are often specific to a geographic region, so if you travel, you would not have benefits outside the coverage area. Advantage Plans often have lower monthly premiums, but may have higher costs in other area.
Initial Enrollment Period. The Initial Enrollment Period is generally the seven-month window around your 65th birthday when you become eligible for Medicare. You can first enroll up three months before you turn 65. The enrollment period ends three months after the month you hit that milestone. The later you sign up during this period, the longer it takes for your coverage to start. As a result, it’s generally best to get a jump on enrolling so you’re not left with any gaps in your care. If you miss the seven-month period altogether, you can still sign up but there can be delays and late fees involved.
October 1. This is the deadline for Medicare Advantage providers to send enrollees the information about the upcoming year’s plan. This notice informs you of any changes to coverage or costs. This gives you time to evaluate your current benefits and compare plans to decide whether it’s time to switch providers.
Open Enrollment Period (October 15 to December 7). This is when all Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription plans are open for applications to enroll or switch coverages. It’s also when Medicare Advantage members revert to Original Medicare. If you make any changes, your new coverage plan will go into effect on January 1.
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment (January 1 – March 31). This is only for Medicare Advantage enrollees. You can change Advantage plans or revert to Original Medicare with or without Part D prescription coverage. You can only do this once per year, and the new coverage will begin the month after you submit your application.
Part B Special Enrollment Period. This is generally for those who have job-based health insurance after turning 65. You’re eligible to sign up for Medicare Part B up to eight months after losing that insurance without paying any late fees. Sign up early if you know when your current job-based plan will end to make sure you won’t have a gap in your coverage.
Reference: USA Today (May 23, 2022) “What are the key deadlines for Medicare enrollment?”