general enrollment period (GEP)

What is Medicare's general enrollment period?

Medicare’s general enrollment period (GEP) is an annual opportunity for certain eligible individuals to enroll in Medicare Part A and/or Medicare Part B.

When is Medicare's general open enrollment period?

The general open enrollment period runs from January 1 through March 31 each year. If the GEP ends on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, Social Security will allow beneficiaries to enroll at its offices the following Monday (or first regular workday). In addition to in-person enrollment, Social Security will honor a written enrollment request if it’s stamped by the last day of the GEP.

Who's eligible to enroll during Medicare's general enrollment period?

Beneficiaries can enroll in Medicare Part B if they didn’t enroll during their initial enrollment period or during a Part B special enrollment period (SEP). Beneficiaries who have to pay a premium for Medicare Part A must sign up for Part A during the GEP, if they didn’t enroll during their initial enrollment period.

Part B enrollees

It’s best to sign up for Part B during your initial enrollment period or Part B special enrollment period (SEP). But if you don’t enroll during either of those times, you can sign up during the GEP and your Part B coverage will start July 1.

Enrolling during the GEP is not ideal because of the delayed effective date. And because the same rules that qualify a person for the Part B special enrollment period also allow them to avoid penalties for Part B late enrollment, most beneficiaries will owe a late-enrollment penalty if they sign up during the GEP.

Part A enrollees

If you qualify for premium-free Part A, you can enroll in it at any time. But if you have to pay a premium, you have to sign up for Part A either during your initial enrollment period that starts three months before your 65th birthday, or during the GEP. If you’re paying a premium for Part A and you enroll during the GEP, coverage effective dates are the same as for Part B – meaning your coverage would begin in July. As is the case with Part B, if you delayed enrolling in premium Part A when you were eligible, you’ll probably owe a late-enrollment penalty.

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