When to Apply for Medicare
Medicare is the country's federal insurance program that pays for the health costs of seniors above 65 years.
Young people with certain disabilities and permanent kidney failure can also qualify for Medicare.
If you're new to Medicare, here's when to apply.
Initial Enrollment Period
This period is the first chance you have to apply for Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D. It's a 7-months window covering the three months before your first birthday, your birthday month, and three months after your 65th birthday.
If you want coverage as soon as you turn 65, you should enroll in the three months window before you turn 65.
General Enrollment Period
If you didn't apply during the Initial Enrollment Period, the General Enrollment Period presents another opportunity to be a Medicare beneficiary.
This period begins on Jan. 1 and ends on Mar. 1 every year. You'll start receiving coverage on July 1 of the same year.
Open Enrollment Period
Once you've applied for Medicare, you do not need to renew your plans every year. But say you reviewed your plan and decided to make changes to it; the Open Enrollment Period is when you can do this.
Also called the Annual Enrollment Period or Annual Election Period, the Open Enrollment Period runs between October 15 and December 7 every year, with coverage beginning on Jan. 1 of the following year.
Switch from Original Medicare (Part A & B) to Medicare Advantage plan (Plan C).
Switch back to Original Medicare from a Medicare Advantage plan.
Change to a different Medicare Advantage plan.
Join, switch to, or drop a Medicare prescription drug plan (Plan D).
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
From Jan. 1 to Mar. 31 every year, you can change your Medicare Advantage plan if you miss doing so during the Annual Enrollment Period. Coverage begins on the first day of the month following the month you made changes to your plan.
For example, if you switch back to Original Medicare or change to a new Medicare Advantage Plan on February 15, coverage will begin on Mar. 1.
Medigap Open Enrollment Period
You can apply for Medigap anytime during a six-month window that begins the day you turn 65. For example, if you turn 65 on Mar 1 and have Part B, your six-month window is between Mar 1 and Sept. 1.
Buying a Medigap policy during this period enables you to buy at the lowest cost.
Also, if you already have a health condition, you'll be able to purchase a policy.
If you attempt to purchase a policy after this period, you may be denied based on your health status.
Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
In certain circumstances, you can apply for Medicare outside of the Initial Open Enrollment and Annual Enrollment Period.
If you delayed applying for Medicare because you have a health plan that covered you through a spouse, union, or employer, you can apply for Parts A and B during the first eight months after your coverage ends. For Part C and D, you can apply within 63 days of the end of your coverage.
Some circumstances that can trigger additional Special Enrollment Periods for Part D are:
If you move to a new location where your plan cannot cover you or into a nursing facility.
If you move to a new location and have new plan options unavailable at your previous address.
Apply for Medicare
While it can be overwhelming, we've detailed the step-by-step process of applying for Medicare.
Alternatively, you can reach out to experienced Medicare advisors to walk you through the steps.