Important Dates for Medicare Recipients

Medicare Benefits Solutions

Sep 10, 2020

When it comes to Medicare, it seems that there are a lot of things to keep track of. You’ll need to know when to sign up, how and when to make changes, and more. More than 56 million Americans are currently enrolled in Medicare and need to keep their calendars marked for important dates throughout the year.

Your Initial Medicare Enrollment

This date is different for everyone, so it’s important to be aware of when you can sign up for Medicare benefits. You will likely be able to sign up for Medicare three months before you turn 65, during your birth month, and for three months after your birthday. For example, if you turn 65 on May 1, your enrollment period will begin on February 1 and will last until August 31. This period lasts for a total of seven months. If you are already receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, you will automatically be enrolled when you reach your 25th month of disability.

During this Initial Enrollment Period, you will pick between Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. Most people automatically get premium-free Part A based on taxes they paid while working, and enroll in Part B during this time to avoid paying late enrollment penalties. If you delay enrollment in Part B, you may have to pay additional fees for your Part B premium for the duration of your time on Medicare. 

You are also able to sign up for Medicare during the general enrollment period. This runs from January 1 to March 31 each year, but coverage will not begin until July 1.
During your Initial Enrollment Period, you will likely consider enrolling in a Part D plan, unless you already have creditable drug coverage. If you choose to decline Part D coverage during your Initial Enrollment Period, you may need to pay higher premium payments for late enrollment.

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Annual Election Period for Medicare Beneficiaries

Every year, the Annual Election Period, from October 15 to December 7, gives you the option to change your coverage, add or drop prescription drug coverage, switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or drop your Medicare Advantage plan and revert to Original Medicare. If you make a change during this time, your new coverage will take effect on January 1st of the following year. 

Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period

Medicare Advantage enrollees have the opportunity to make one change to their coverage during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period from January 1 to March 31. During this time, you have the ability to change your Medicare Advantage plan. You can also drop your Medicare Advantage plan and revert to Original Medicare, and you can sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan at this time.

Medigap Enrollment

Medigap, or Medicare Supplement, plans help pay for some things not covered by Original Medicare, including deductible amounts, copayments, premium payments, and other fees. When you first qualify for Medicare, you’ll have a 6-month Medigap period to enroll in any policy sold in your state. You’ll have a guaranteed issue right and can’t be turned down based on any pre-existing medical conditions. If you don’t purchase a Medicare Supplement policy during this time, you may be turned down or charged more for coverage.

Annual Notice of Change

Every fall, Medicare recipients receive an Annual Notice of Coverage. This document will include any changes in coverage, costs, or service area that will be effective January 1 of the following year. This notice will give you the chance to review your personal coverage and your medical expenses over the past year before the Annual Election Period begins. If you determine that another plan might better meet your healthcare coverage needs, you can consider other options in your area, compare plans, and enroll during AEP.

Wellness Visits, Flu Shots, and More Personal Dates

When you first sign up for Medicare, you’ll have a Welcome to Medicare visit with your physician. This visit will allow you and your doctor to build a rapport, and establish a baseline for your vitals and overall wellness. After you’ve had Medicare for 12 months, you’ll schedule a Wellness visit once every 12 months. These Wellness visits give you the chance to sit down with your doctor and discuss any changes or concerns you may have.

Your personal health appointments should be marked on your calendar. It can be easy to neglect your health appointments, especially if you’re feeling good, but your doctor visits are important. Part B includes preventive care, such as flu shots. Flu season lasts from November to April. Medicare Part B covers the flu shot at 100% once each year, and this charge does not apply to your deductible.

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