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When to Apply for Medicare Part C

As a senior age 65 or older, you may be eligible to join a Medicare Advantage plan as an alternative to Original Medicare. A smart, sensible way to get the coverage you need. As long as you live in the plan’s service area, are enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B, there are times throughout the year when you can enroll. Here is some important enrollment information that can help.

When to Apply

Typically, you can only join a Medicare Advantage plan during certain times throughout the year. Medicare Part C Enrollment periods were created to make it easy for people to get the coverage they need. However, outside of these periods, Medicare often requires that you stay with the plan you have until the following year. Of course, there are exceptions and in some cases, you may apply outside of designated enrollment periods.

It can be confusing with all the different enrollment periods. The good news is, once you familiarize yourself with the details, it’s easier than ever to secure comprehensive and affordable coverage. Here is a convenient breakdown of each enrollment period.

Initial Enrollment Period

The best time to apply for Medicare Part C is during your Initial Enrollment period, or when you are first eligible to receive Medicare. Every senior has an Initial Enrollment period that begins 3 months before you turn 65 and ends three months after. If you are disabled, your Initial Enrollment period begins 3 months before your 25th month of benefits and ends 3 moths after your 25th month of benefits.

Annual Enrollment Period

Once you join Medicare, you can apply for Medicare Part C during Annual Enrollment, which is October 15 through December 7 of each year. During this time, anyone can join, switch or drop a Medicare Advantage plan. Remember, if you miss the December 7 deadline, you may have to wait until the following year to purchase Medicare Advantage unless you qualify for a special enrollment period.

Open Enrollment Period

If you are unhappy with your Medicare Advantage Plan, this period from January 1st to March 31st is the time to make a change. You can change from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare plus a Part D Plan or switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another. Plan changes take effect the following month.

Special Enrollment Period

Medicare realizes that there are some situations that make it challenging to meet enrollment periods. Special enrollment periods were created to give all seniors the same opportunity.

If you meet one of the following conditions, you may qualify for a special enrollment period:

  • Change in Residence Moving out of your current plan’s service area or in or out of a nursing home
  • Lose Your Current Coverage Losing employer provided coverage or no longer eligible for Medicaid or Extra Help
  • Your Plan Changes Current plan is terminated by Medicare

 

References:

Special enrollment period: https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/when-can-i-join-a-health-or-drug-plan/special-circumstances/join-plan-special-circumstances.html#collapse-3193

Initial enrollment and Annual enrollment period: https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/when-can-i-join-a-health-or-drug-plan/when-can-i-join-a-health-or-drug-plan.html#collapse-3190

General information: https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/medicare-health-plans/medicare-advantage-plans/medicare-advantage-plans.html

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