Throughout the year, there are several opportunities for current or prospective Medicare beneficiaries to change plans or enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Understanding these different enrollment windows and knowing which ones apply to you is the best way to avoid gaps in coverage and ease into your new plan.
Regardless of the enrollment period, it’s important to begin researching Medicare plan options as early as possible so you can make an informed decision when the time comes.
Annual Enrollment: October 15 – December 7
During this period you can sign up for, change or disenroll from a plan. Prior to the start of the annual enrollment period, existing Medicare Advantage beneficiaries are mailed an annual notice of change, which outlines the pending changes to your current plan that will take place in the coming year. The annual enrollment period allows you to review your current plan and assess whether or not that plan still offers the coverage you need and deserve.
Open Enrollment: January 1 – March 31
This window is particularly important to Medicare Advantage beneficiaries if you missed your chance to make a plan change or need the opportunity to correct an enrollment error that was made during the annual enrollment period. This enrollment window serves as your one opportunity to ensure you are enrolled in the plan that is right for your specific health care needs.
Initial Enrollment: Aging into Medicare
This election period is open for a total of seven months, including the three months before, the month of, and three months after the month you first become eligible for Medicare. You become eligible for Medicare once you reach the age of 65, or the 25th month you have collected disability benefits.
You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during the three months leading up to your 65th birthday, during the month of your 65th birthday and for three months after you turn 65. Applications are processed with a prospective effective date, which is always the first of the month. The effective date of coverage will not be earlier than the first day of the month of your entitlement to Medicare Part A and B.
There are several different circumstantial enrollment windows that are collectively known as special enrollment elections. However, one of the most common life changes that qualifies for special enrollment is the loss of employee group health coverage.
If you continue working past the age of 65 and remain enrolled in your employer’s health plan, you will have a special election once you retire. If you learn your employer’s health plan is no longer the best option, you can voluntarily leave the group coverage to enroll in Medicare and then elect a Medicare Advantage plan.
Another common life change that qualifies for a special enrollment is a change in residence. If you move out of your current plan’s service area, you have at least two full months to pick up coverage with a plan in your new service area. This enrollment window begins when the plan is notified of your move.
No matter the enrollment window, Network Health is here to assist with finding the right plan. Our dedicated sales team is available to answer questions about plan options, and to help navigate the enrollment process.