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  • Writer's pictureMedicare Experience

When Is the Deadline for Medicare Open Enrollment?

Be sure to make your coverage changes by the deadline each year.
The Medicare Open Enrollment Period

Each year, the Medicare Open Enrollment Period begins on October 15.

If you enroll in a new Medicare plan during this period, the coverage for your new plan will begin on January 1st of the following year.

The deadline for the Medicare Open Enrollment Period falls on the same day every year, which is December 7.

If you're looking to change plans or enroll in a new plan, be sure to do so by the deadline.

What Options Do I Have Before the Open Enrollment Deadline?

Before the December 7 deadline, Medicare beneficiaries can reevaluate their coverage and make certain changes to their current coverage.

The changes you can make during this period are limited to a few courses of action. Here are your available options during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period:

1. You can switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare.

2. You can switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan, or from one Medicare Part D plan to another Medicare Part D plan.

3. If you did not enroll in a Medicare Part D plan when first eligible during your Initial Enrollment Period, you can enroll in a Medicare Part D plan. Note, however, that a Part D late enrollment penalty may apply.

Medicare Open Enrollment runs from October 15 to December 7.

If you’re hoping to make one of the changes listed above so that your new coverage will start on January 1st of the following year.

Be sure to complete your enrollment by December 7.

Is This the Same Deadline for Initial Medicare Enrollment?

This is an important distinction to understand.

No, the Open Enrollment Period and your Initial Enrollment Period are separate enrollment periods that accomplish different objectives.

The Open Enrollment Period is for those who already have Medicare and want to change or update their current Medicare coverage.

Your Initial Medicare Enrollment Period, on the other hand, is when you’re first eligible to enroll for Medicare. It’s important to enroll during this period to avoid any late enrollment penalties.

So, if you missed your Initial Enrollment Period, which is the 7-month period that surrounds your 65th birthday, your next available option to enroll in Medicare is during the General Enrollment Period.

There isn’t the option to sign up for Original Medicare during the Open Enrollment Period.

The General Enrollment Period runs from January 1 – March 31 every year. During this time you can enroll in Medicare Part A and/or Medicare Part B.

If you enroll during the General Enrollment Period, your coverage will begin on July 1 of the same year.

Note: Generally, if you don’t sign up for Medicare Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period, you will be subject to a late enrollment penalty. The penalty will be applied to your Part B premium amount and will continue to apply for as long as you have Part B coverage.

Medicare Open Enrollment: Common Scenarios

As you consider your options during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, here are a few common scenarios that you can explore to aid your decision-making process.

Parting Thoughts: Review Your Drug Coverage Every Year

If you have a stand-alone drug plan with your Medicare coverage, or if you have a Medicare Advantage plan, it’s always a good idea to review your coverage for the upcoming year.

It’s possible for these plans to make updates or changes that will impact which drugs are covered starting on January 1 of the following year.

Remember, even if you’re happy with your current plan and all of the medications you require are currently covered, don’t make the assumption that this will be the case in the following year.

Taking some time in the days leading up to the Open Enrollment Period is a great way to ensure you are not faced with any surprises that negatively impact your prescription costs or coverage.

This will also prepare you in the event that you would like to switch plans or add additional coverage during this period.

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