You can only sign up for federal government health insurance coverage during certain times. You can enroll when you first qualify for coverage, during annual open enrollment periods, and after special circumstances.
Your Initial Enrollment Period is when you first meet eligibility requirements. You can sign up for any part of Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period. You can sign up for any Medicare parts, including a Medicare Advantage Plan, which is through a third-party insurance provider.
If you qualify for Medicare because you are about to turn 65 years of age, your Initial Enrollment Period is seven months long. It starts on the first day of the month, three months before your 65th birthday. Your Initial Enrollment Period includes the month of your birthday and the three months after.
Your coverage start dates depend on when you sign up during the Initial Enrollment Period. If you sign up for Original Medicare during:
- The three months before you turn 65 years of age, your coverage date will start the month you turn 65.
- The month you turn 65 years of age, your coverage date will start a month after you sign up.
- The month after you turn 65 years of age, your coverage date will start two months after you sign up.
- Two months after you turn 65 years of age, your coverage date will start three months after you sign up.
- Three months after you turn 65 years of age, your coverage date will start three months after you sign up.
You can still apply for Medicare if you miss your Initial Enrollment Period. For example, you may not have needed coverage upon turning 65 years of age if you had health insurance from your employer.
Between October 15th and December 7th is the Medicare Open Enrollment Period. During this time, you can join, switch, or change your plan. The coverage start date is January 1st if you enroll in a plan during Open Enrollment.
The General Enrollment Period is between January 1st and March 31st annually. If you sign up at any point in the General Enrollment Period, your coverage start day is July 1st. If you have a Medicare Part C plan, this is also when you can switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan or Original Medicare.
Special Enrollment Periods occur when a particular circumstance occurs that allows you to enroll outside of the Initial, Open, or General Enrollment Periods if you qualify for Medicare. Special circumstances include:
- Move to a new location that is outside of your plan’s coverage area.
- You lose your employer coverage.
- You are released from incarceration.
- You lost coverage through your spouse.
The time when you apply for Medicare can affect the cost of your coverage. Find out what the actual cost of Medicare is on the next slide.