You can enroll in each part of Medicare or change plans during specific enrollment periods, the same is true for guaranteed issue Medigap.
Outside of open enrollment, you either won’t be able to enroll or change plans or will be subject to potential denial, stipulations, and/or extra charges (with Medigap), or a late enrollment penalty (for example with Part A, B and D).
Each part of Medicare and Medigap has at least one annual enrollment period with the exception of original Medicare Part A and Part B which require you to enroll in the 7 month period surrounding your 65th birthday and Medigap which is only guaranteed issue during your initial enrollment period.
With that said, there are also special conditions under which enrollment is allowed outside of annual enrollment, for example, Part B can be deferred without a late penalty up to 8 months after having qualifying coverage through an employer or union group health plan, through your or your spouse’s current or active employment.
In general, the annual enrollment periods are as follows:
- Initial Enrollment Period: The first time you can enroll in Original Medicare Parts A and B. For most people, it is the 7 months surrounding your birthday. You can enroll in Part C, Part D, and Medigap during this time as well. You can freely change plans during your initial enrollment period.
- Jan 1 – Mar 31 (General Enrollment): If you missed initial enrollment, and you don’t qualify for a special enrollment period, you can sign up for original Medicare (Parts A and B, not Medicare Advantage). You can also change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, or you can drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare Parts A and B (and join a Standalone drug plan if you wish).
- April 1 – June 30 (Limited Enrollment for Part C and Part D): If you enrolled in Medicare part B from Jan 1 to Mar 31 you can add a Part D drug plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan during this period.
- Oct 15 – Dec 7 (Open Enrollment): You can freely make changes to your coverage. For example, you can switch back and forth between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, switch back and forth between an Advantage plan that offers drug coverage and one that doesn’t, and/or you can add or drop Part D coverage.
- Special Enrollment Period: A special enrollment period for one or more parts of Medicare can occur based on certain circumstances (for example after an employer-based health plan ends).
- Medigap Protected Enrollment Period: You can enroll in Medigap at any time, but it is only guaranteed issue for a 6 month period starting the month you are 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B.
Learn more about Medicare’s annual enrollment periods.
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