Medicare Enrollment Periods

medicare supplement

When you turn 65 years old, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B if you are receiving benefits from Social Security or from the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB).

If you are age 65 and you are not yet getting Social Security or RRB benefits yet (because you’re still working), you won’t get Part A and Part B automatically: you need to sign up for them.

If you need to sign up for Part A, you can sign up during the following times:

  • Initial Enrollment Period – When you are first eligible for Medicare. (This is a 7 month period that begins 3 months before the month you turn age 65, includes the month you turn age 65, and ends 3 months after you turn age 65.)
  • General Enrollment Period – Between January 1 through March 31 each year. Your coverage will begin July 1. You may have to pay a higher premium for late enrollment.
  • Special Enrollment Period – If you or your spouse (or family member if you are disabled) is currently working, and you are covered by a group health plan through an employer or union.
  • Special Enrollment Period for International Volunteers – If you are serving as a volunteer in a foreign country.

Medicare is effective the month you turn 65. If your 65th birthday were June 20, 2010, your Medicare effective date would be June 1, 2010. (If your birthday is on the 1st day of any month, Medicare Part A and Part B will be effective the 1st day of the prior month. For example, if your 65th birthday were June 1, 2010, your Medicare effective date would be May 1, 2010.)

If you are under age 65 and disabled, you automatically get Part A after you get disability benefits from Social Security or certain benefits from the RRB for 24 months. You will get your Medicare card in the mail 3 months before your 65th birthday or your 25th month of disability.

If you have ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease), you automatically get Part A the month your disability benefits begin.

If you have End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), different rules apply.

Annual Election Period
The 2010 Annual Election Period, the period in which you can change your Medicare Advantage Plan or prescription drug coverage, is November 15 through December 31. Any change made during this time will become effective January 1, 2011. (In 2011, and subsequent years, the Annual election Period will be October 15 through December 7.)

During this time you may do the following:

November 15 through December 31, 2010

If you currently have this Medicare plan: You can:
Original Medicare Switch to a Medicare Advantage Plan withPrescription Drug coverage
Switch to a Medicare Advantage Plan withoutPrescription Drug coverage
Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, if you do not have one.
Drop your Medicare Prescription Drug coverage completely, if you have one. Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
Stay with your current plan.
Medicare Advantage Plan Switch to Original Medicare
Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan.
Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to another Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage.
Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage to another Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage.
Stay with your current plan

For the past several years (including 2010), people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans were able to switch from one plan to another during the months of January, February, and March. This “Open Enrollment Period” will not be available in 2011.

After January 1, they will be locked into their Medicare Advantage plan for 2011 unless they decide to dis-enroll from their Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare. Individuals with a Medicare Advantage plan may elect to dis-enroll from their MA plan during the Medicare Advantage Dis-enrollment Period from January 1 through February 14 in order to return to Original Medicare. These individuals may enroll in a Part D plan during this time frame only.

The Benefit Link | Medicare Supplement Plans

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