If you are closing in on 65 years old, it may be time to start thinking about enrolling in Medicare. For people who are receiving Social Security benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) automatically enrolls you in Original Medicare Part A (hospital insurance), and Part B (medical insurance) three months before your 65th birthday.
People who are receiving Social Security (SS) benefits due to a disability and are younger than 65 are eligible for Medicare benefits after receiving SS for 24 months consecutively. At that time, the SSA automatically enrolls you in Original Medicare Parts A and B.
If you enroll in Medicare for the first time at the age of 65, you have an initial enrollment period (IEP) which begins three months before the month of your 65th birthday. This period also includes the entire month of your birthday and extends for three months following your birth month. That means your IEP covers a total of seven months.
During your IEP, after the SSA has automatically enrolled you in Original Medicare Parts A and B, you can choose to keep Part B or you can opt out if you have primary health care coverage from another provider, such as through your employer.
During your IEP, you can also enroll in a Medicare Advantage (Part C), or a prescription drug (Part D) plan. But what happens if you do not sign up for your Medicare benefits during your IEP? In such cases, Medicare provides people with an open enrollment period. Here are the details on when it is and how it works.
When is the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period?
Every year the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) begins on October 15th and ends on December 7th. It is also known as the Medicare Annual Election Period, or the Fall Open Enrollment Period.
During the AEP you can do any of the following:
1. You can opt out of a Medicare Part B plan.
2. You can switch from a current Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan back to Original Medicare Parts A and B.
3. You can purchase a Medicare Advantage plan, or switch to a different Part C plan.
4. You can sign up for a prescription drug (Part D) plan, switch from your current plan to a different one, or cancel your current Part D plan without signing up for another.
If you make changes to any of your existing plans or enroll in a new plan, the new plan goes into effect on January 1st of the coming new year.
What are some reasons for changing plans during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period?
You may decide to change your health care coverage during the AEP for certain reasons such as an increase in the price of your current program’s premiums. Some people change plans because their primary health care provider is no longer included in their Medicare Advantage plan’s network. Or, you may find that your Part D plan’s formulary no longer covers your medication.
For people who wish to switch back to Original Medicare Parts A and B from a Medicare Advantage plan, they may also do this during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period which begins on January 1st and ends on March 31st every year.
At this time you can change Medicare Advantage plans, go back to Original Medicare Parts A and B, or enroll in a prescription drug (Part D) and Medicare Supplement insurance plan. Coverage for these new plans begins on the first day of the month following your new enrollment.
Of course, you always have the right to switch back to Original Medicare Parts A and B from a Medicare Advantage plan at any time as long as it is done within the initial 12 months of enrollment.