For aging adults nearing the age of 65, understanding when to enroll in Medicare is important. One reason you want to learn the general guidelines and timelines is because if you miss the Initial Enrollment Period, you could incur a late penalty fee that you have to pay year after year. 

However, Medicare has graciously created special enrollment periods for those who happen to miss the Initial Enrollment boat. Each year, Medicare allows those who missed enrolling in the Initial Medicare Period to enroll between the months of January 1st through March 31st. This General Enrollment Period (GEP) is considered your second chance to enroll in Medicare, which is a godsend for those who didn’t understand when they could actually apply for Medicare or couldn’t for some reason.

Keep in mind that though you enroll by March 31st, coverage won’t begin right away. Regardless of when you enroll or what Medicare you’re enrolling in during the GEP, your Medicare coverage will commence on July 1st.

Medicare Initial Enrollment Period

Generally, those that are turning 65 opt to enroll in Medicare just before they turn 65.  The Initial Enrollment period typically runs three months prior to turning 65, the month of your birthday, and three months after your birthday. During these times, you’re able to enroll in Medicare A, B, C, or D.

Medicare General Enrollment: What You Should Know

  • If you didn’t sign up for Medicare during the Initial Enrollment Period and you weren’t eligible to enroll during a Special Enrollment Period, you can generally enroll during the GEP, with coverage beginning on July 1st.  This delay in coverage is one reason people are encouraged to enroll during the Initial Enrollment Period.
  • During General Enrollment, you can enroll in Part A, Part B, or both.
  • Keep in mind there may be a penalty incurred due to late enrollment. In fact, if you wait more than one year after you were first eligible for Medicare, you could incur a 10% penalty fee for each year you’ve delayed. For those enrolled in Medicare Part B, this 10% penalty fee is a lifetime penalty, paid yearly so long as they continue with Part B. According to economics professor at Stanford University, Mark Duggan, “The idea behind the penalty is to give people a financial incentive to enroll in insurance from the get-go as opposed to waiting until they have some kind of negative health event.”
  • The only exceptions are those who can enroll in the Medicare Savings Program or those that weren’t eligible for Medicare because of a disability.
  • Some can enroll in Part C (Medicare Advantage) or Part D (Prescription Drugs) through the months of April 1st through June 30th.
  • For those who decide to work over the age of 65, be sure to enroll in Medicare within eight months after you quit your job so you can avoid having to pay a penalty. 

For more information regarding Medicare’s General Enrollment Period, head over to Medicare’s official government site. 


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