The General Enrollment Period for Medicare is available to those who decline Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) benefits without creditable coverage when first eligible. Without creditable coverage or a special circumstance, the General Enrollment Period will be your only opportunity to enroll in Original Medicare once you delay coverage.
Read below to learn more about this enrollment period, when it occurs, who should use it, and more.
WHAT IS THE MEDICARE GENERAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD?
The Medicare General Enrollment Period allows you to enroll in Original Medicare if you declined to enroll in coverage during your Initial Enrollment Period. The General Enrollment Period for Medicare occurs annually from January 1 through March 31. You may sign up for Medicare during this enrollment period if you were previously eligible for Original Medicare yet, declined to enroll.
When you enroll in Original Medicare during the General Enrollment Period, your coverage will be active on the first day of the following month. For example, if you sign up on January 12, your coverage will be active on February 1. If you sign up in March, your coverage will be active in April.
Typically, if you are enrolling in Medicare during the General Enrollment Period, you may be subject to paying late enrollment penalties for Medicare Part A and/or Medicare Part B. These penalties depend on the time you went without creditable coverage.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE GENERAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD?
To be eligible for the Medicare General Enrollment Period, you must be eligible for Original Medicare and have previously delayed enrollment while lacking creditable coverage. During the Medicare General Enrollment Period, you can apply for Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, or both.
When you first become eligible, enrolling in Medicare Part A inpatient insurance is a no-brainer because the coverage usually does not require a monthly premium. Additionally, if you qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A and receive Social Security benefits, you must enroll in Medicare coverage to maintain your Social Security benefits. Thus, initial Medicare Part A enrollment is more common.
However, some Medicare-eligible seniors delay outpatient Medicare coverage because of the Medicare Part B premium or other factors. If this is the case, beneficiaries will need to enroll during the General Enrollment Period for Medicare in the absence of a Special Enrollment Period.
MEDICARE PART D ENROLLMENT DURING THE GENERAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD
The Medicare General Enrollment Period does not permit beneficiaries to solely sign up for Medicare Part D. However, if you enroll in Medicare Part A or Medicare Part B during this time, you will receive a coinciding Special Enrollment Period for Medicare Part D.
The Medicare Part D plan you sign up for during the Medicare General Enrollment Period will cover you through the end of the year. Additionally, you can still make changes for the following year during the Annual Enrollment Period in the fall.
LATE ENROLLMENT PENALTIES DURING THE GENERAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD
If you delay Original Medicare benefits without creditable coverage, you may be required pay the penalty. Each Part of Original Medicare, plus Medicare Part D, involves an ongoing penalty for late enrollment, which you must pay in addition to your monthly premium.
The Medicare Part A penalty only last two times the number of years you go without Medicare hospital coverage after you are eligible. However, the Medicare Part B penalty never goes away. Thus, you will be responsible for paying the penalty as long as you have this coverage.
Although Medicare is not mandatory, late enrollment penalties exist to ensure seniors have adequate healthcare coverage in their most vulnerable years.
ENROLLING IN A MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT OR MEDICARE ADVANTAGE PLAN DURING THE GENERAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD
Although this enrollment period only applies to Original Medicare, you can still enroll in a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan if you enroll in Medicare Part B coverage during this time. Enrolling in Medicare Part B gives beneficiaries a Special Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage or guaranteed issue rights for a Medigap plan.
You cannot enroll in both a Medicare Advantage and a Medicare Supplement plan. Thus, knowing which plan type best suits your healthcare needs is essential as they do not cover the same benefits.