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Understanding Medicare’s Many Enrollment Periods

Written by Evens Stevenson

As you approach age 65, one of the important milestones that will be coming up in your life is your eligibility for Medicare. This health care program covers a great deal of services – including hospitalization, medical services, and prescription drugs.

Prior to moving forward with your actual enrollment in the Medicare program, however, it is important that you have a thorough understanding of how the program works, as well as which form of Medicare – Original Medicare, Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B, or Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) will be right for your particular health care needs.Medicare Enrollment Periods

It can be confusing trying to keep all of the enrollment dates straight and remembering what they do, but missing some of those dates can have serious consequences. If you don’t sign up for Medicare during the enrollment period, you could cause your monthly premiums to go through the roof. Don’t let a simple mistake keep you from getting the health care you need or break your bank.

For those who are turning 65 and are either receiving retirement benefits from Social Security or from the Railroad Retirement Board, you will automatically be enrolled for your Medicare benefits. However, if you are not in this category, you will need to sign up for Medicare during one of the many enrollment periods that are offered.

Medicare Enrollment Periods and When They Occur

There are several different enrollment periods for Medicare. These include:

Initial Enrollment Period

During your Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare, you can sign up for Medicare Part A and / or Medicare Part B coverage. This is the time period that begins three months before the month in which you turn 65. It includes your birthday month, and it also includes the three months following the month of your 65th birthday.  This is also when you will have your initial enrollment for a Medicare supplement plan.  The Medicare supplemental insurance plans from supplemental insurance companies are designed to fill any gaps in coverage left by traditional Medicare.

General Enrollment Period

For those who do not apply for Medicare coverage during their Initial Enrollment Period, they may do so during the General Enrollment Period. This period runs between January 1st and March 31 of each year. If you enroll for Medicare during this time frame, your coverage will begin on July 1st of that year. Because you did not enroll during your Initial Enrollment Period, you will be required to pay a higher premium rate for your Medicare coverage.

Special Enrollment Period

Those who are covered through an employer’s group health insurance plan during the time of their Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare may sign up for their Medicare benefits during a Special Enrollment Period. Here, you may apply at any time that you are still covered in the group plan, or during the 8-month time frame that begins the month after your coverage in the group plan ends.

Other circumstances that could also qualify you for a Special Enrollment Period for Medicare include if you moved, if you become eligible for Medicaid, if you became eligible for the Medicare Extra Help program, or if you are receiving care in an institution such as a skilled nursing home.

Open Enrollment Period

Medicare also has an Open Enrollment Period each year. This takes place between October 15th and December 7th. At this time, those who want to switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back over to Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B) or vice versa may do so. If you make a change from one type of Medicare plan to the other at this time, your new coverage will begin on the following January 1st.

Medigap Open Enrollment Period

There is another enrollment period that you need to be aware of, which is your Medigap Open Enrollment Period. This enrollment period is directly related to Medicare, but supplemental insurance, but it could have a drastic impact on your health care and finances.

The Medigap open enrollment period is a six-month window around the month that you turn 65. During time, if you apply for a Medigap policy, the insurance company can’t decline your application, regardless of your health or any pre-existing conditions that you may have. Additionally, the companies can’t charge you more for you insurance because of your health. This enrollment period is important for anyone that wants additional coverage, but has poor health or serious complications.

If you aren’t familiar with Medigap plans, they can be an excellent resource for anyone that wants additional health care coverage the original Medicare doesn’t provide. These insurance plans are sold through private insurance companies and fill in the coverage holes that are left behind. There are ten different policies that you can choose from, each of them covers various expenses or different portions of medical fees, with Medigap Plan F being the most comprehensive of the supplemental plans. These policies are a great way to protect yourself against the rising costs of health care.

Getting Help With Medicare or Medigap Policies

Navigating all of these enrollment times, rules, and applications can be difficult and confusing. It’s important that you get the health care coverage that you need, and we are here to help. Our independent agents can not only get you the lowest rates for a Medicare supplemental insurance, but they can also help you ensure that you don’t miss any of these periods and face massive penalties.

If you have any questions about your Medicare coverage, Medigap policy, or you want the best rates on a supplemental insurance policy contact us today.

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