The 3 Times You Can Join a Medicare Advantage PlanPosted by Medicare Made Clear
Let’s assume you’ve assessed your needs, done your research and decided to join a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan. Your next question might be: “When can I enroll?” There are two standard enrollment periods: the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) for those who are new to Medicare and the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) for those who are already Medicare beneficiaries. There is also a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for individuals with qualifying exceptions that allows them to enroll in a plan outside the standard enrollment periods.
1. Join During the Initial Enrollment Period
If you’re new to Medicare, your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is a seven-month period beginning three months before the month of your 65th birthday. During this period you are automatically enrolled in Original Medicare Parts A and B. You can refuse or delay Part B, which has a premium. Part A is premium-free for most people.
During your IEP and after you are enrolled in Original Medicare Parts A and B, you can join a Medicare Advantage plan. If you decide not to enroll in Part B during your IEP, then you cannot join a Medicare Advantage plan at that time. Also, you may have to pay a penalty if you decide that you want Part B later.
To research plans that are available in your area, go to Medicare.gov and select the plan finder tool.
2. Join During the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)
The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) occurs every year from October 15 to December 7. If you are already a Medicare beneficiary, then this is the time during which you can change plans, if you choose. During AEP you can make any of the following changes to your existing Medicare plan:
- Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
- Change from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare.
- Switch from one Medicare prescription drug plan to another.
Join or drop a Medicare prescription drug plan.
3. Joining Under Special Circumstances
Qualifying exceptions allow some individuals to join a Medicare Advantage or other plan at special times during the year. This period is called the Special Enrollment Period, or SEP. During this time and under special circumstances, certain individuals can join or change Medicare plans. Examples of special circumstances include when:
- You move.
- You become eligible for Medicaid.
- You qualify for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs.
- You’re getting care in an institution, such as a skilled nursing facility or long-term care hospital.
It’s a good idea to choose your Medicare plan and take advantage of these enrollment periods as soon as they open. You can learn more about enrollment periods on the Medicare website, Medicare.gov.
To learn more, contact UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Made Clear at 1-877-619-5582 (TTY 711), 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., 7 days a week. You may also call the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.
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