Medicare Enrollment Basics

We all wait in anticipation or anxiety to become eligible for Medicare. To eliminate some of the confusion, here are some simple, basic facts concerning when, during the year, you may apply for Medicare coverage. This information refers to the two Medicare coverages you might pick, choosing one or both: Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) and/or Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D).

Enrollment is accepted at any time of the year when you are enrolling for the first time. The requirements for enrollment include: attaining age 65, being under 65 but disabled, already enrolled in Part B, but not in Part A.

It is not necessary to sign up for Medicare each year, although during a certain time each year you are able to makes changes to your existing plans.

The General Enrollment Period each year is from January 1 to March 31. For eligibility for general enrollment you must have Part A coverage and sign up for Part B during this time.

Every year, an opportunity is available to change the Medicare Advantage or Medicare prescription drug coverage you have enrolled in. There are two different periods for this activity.

Open Enrollment for Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage is held from October 15 to December 7 of each year. During this time you might change to one Medicare Advantage Plan from an Original Medicare plan; do the reverse; go from one Advantage plan to a different Advantage plan; switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage; move to a Medicare Advantage with drug coverage from one that does not provide such coverage; join one of the Medicare Prescription Drug Plans; participate in a different Medicare drug plan and discontinue any Medicare prescription drug coverage entirely.

The other time of year for changing Advantage or prescription drug plans is during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period, which occurs from January 1 through February 14 each year. During this time of year, if you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can leave your plan and switch to Original Medicare. If you switch to Original Medicare during this period, you’ll have until February 14 to also join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to add drug coverage. Your coverage will begin the first day of the month after the plan gets your enrollment form.

During this time you cannot switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan, you cannot Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another, you cannot Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another and you cannot Join, switch, or drop a Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA) Plan.

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