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Medicare Advantage Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP)

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Summary: Your first opportunity to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan occurs during your Medicare Advantage Initial Coverage Election Period. This period can occur when you first become eligible for Medicare or can occur later if you choose to delay your Part B coverage. During this period, you can enroll in any Medicare Advantage plan that’s available in your area. Below, we’ll go into detail about how the Initial Coverage Election Period works and what you can do if you miss it. Estimated Read Time: 5 min

What is ICEP for Medicare Advantage?

The Medicare Advantage Initial Coverage Election Period is the first opportunity Medicare beneficiaries have to enroll in any Medicare Advantage plan. This enrollment period is unique to each Medicare beneficiary and only occurs once.

The Medicare Advantage Initial Coverage Election Period can occur during one of two timeframes, depending on when you get both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. If you’re enrolling in both parts of Original Medicare when you first become eligible, then your Initial Coverage Election Period will run alongside your Initial Enrollment Period. However, if you’re still working and delay your Medicare Part B coverage, your ICEP will occur later.

Below, we’ll go into further detail about when the Medicare Advantage Initial Coverage Election Period occurs.

Your Medicare Advantage ICEP if You Get Original Medicare During the Initial Enrollment Period

If you plan on getting both parts of Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), then your Initial Coverage Election Period will run concurrent with your IEP. Your Initial Coverage Election Period will begin three months before your qualifying event (for most: your 65th birthday) and will end three months following the month of your qualifying event. Here’s an example:

Fred is turning 65 in May and plans to sign up for both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B as soon as he can. His Initial Enrollment Period will start in February and end in August. His Initial Coverage Election Period will also run from February to August.

Fred signs up for both parts of Original Medicare in February, so his Part A and Part B effective dates will be May 1st.

Since he is in his Initial Coverage Election Period, Fred also signs up for a Medicare Advantage plan. His plan will not be effective until May 1st, when his Part A and Part B go into effect.

ICEP vs IEP: Know the Difference

Medicare enrollment periods and their acronyms can sometimes be confusing, especially when you have enrollment periods that sound similar. The Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP) and the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) are two enrollment periods that sound similar but are different.

The Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP) is your first opportunity to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.

The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is your first opportunity to enroll in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B).

Your Medicare Advantage Initial Coverage Election Period if You Delayed Part B

It’s not uncommon for individuals who are eligible for Medicare to delay their Part B coverage because they (or their spouse) are still employed and covered under a group health insurance plan. When you delay your Medicare Part B coverage due to having other creditable coverage, you will be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period after you lose your employer coverage.

When you sign up for Medicare Part B coverage during this Special Enrollment Period, your Initial Coverage Election Period will begin three months prior to your Medicare Part B coverage start date. Your ICEP will end on the last day of the month prior to your Medicare Part B coverage start date. Let’s review an example:

Susan retires from her job in August. She signs up for Medicare Part B right away, so her Medicare Part B coverage will begin on September 1st.

Susan’s Medicare Advantage Initial Coverage Election Period would be June 1st – August 31st. Regardless of whether Susan enrolls in a plan in June, July, or August, her plan coverage won’t become effective until September 1st.

Remember: you need both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. If you delayed both parts (and want a Medicare Advantage plan), make sure to enroll both Medicare Part A and Part B when you lose your employer coverage.

What if I Miss My Initial Coverage Election Period?

While it is important to utilize your Initial Coverage Election Period to ensure you have the coverage you need, missing it does not mean you can’t enroll in a plan at a later time. Generally, the Annual Enrollment Period will be your next opportunity to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. You may be able to enroll in a plan earlier if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

There is no penalty for not enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan during your Initial Coverage Election Period. Unlike Medicare Supplement plans, you cannot be denied a Medicare Advantage plan due to pre-existing health problems. This means you don’t risk reducing your plan options if you miss your ICEP and must enroll later. Please note that if you plan to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage (MAPD plan), and you do not enroll during your Initial Coverage Election Period, you could face a Part D penalty when you enroll in drug coverage later.

If you have questions about Medicare Advantage enrollment periods and would like to speak with a licensed agent, give us a call at the number above. You can also learn more about enrolling in Medicare Advantage plans by checking out our resources below.

Medicare Advantage Enrollment Periods

The ICEP is just one of few Medicare Advantage Enrollment Periods. Learn more about the different enrollment periods here and what coverage changes you can make during each.

How to Apply for a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C)

Is your Initial Coverage Election Period coming up? You can learn more about the process of applying for a Medicare Advantage plan here.

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period

Did you miss your Initial Coverage Election Period? You can still enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during the Annual Enrollment Period.

Sources

Joining a plan, Medicare.gov. Accessed February 2024

https://www.medicare.gov/basics/get-started-with-medicare/get-more-coverage/joining-a-plan

Allison Auvil

Allison Auvil

Content Strategist
Allison Auvil is a Content Strategist at Elite Insurance Partners. With a bachelor’s degree in visual arts, Allison brings a creative perspective to her writing. She has been involved in content writing and editing for the past five years. The combination of an extensive Medicare101 training program and daily thorough research has made Allison a Medicare Guru. A detail-oriented writer, Allison is focused on writing pieces that are accurate, informative, and easy to read. She begins her writing process with meticulous research and note taking. Once her data is compiled, Allison enjoys the challenge of taking complex data and information and creating articles that are easy to understand.
Ashlee Zareczny

Ashlee Zareczny

Compliance Supervisor and Licensed Medicare Agent
Ashlee Zareczny is the Compliance Supervisor for ApplyforMedicare. As a licensed Medicare agent in all 50 states, she is dedicated to educating those eligible for Medicare by providing the necessary resources and tools. Additionally, Ashlee trains new and tenured Medicare agents on CMS compliance guidelines. Ashlee is a Medicare expert who specializes in Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D education.
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