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Medicare General Enrollment Period (GEP)

What is the Medicare General Enrollment Period?

The Medicare General Enrollment Period is an opportunity for individuals to apply for Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and/or Medicare Part B) if they were not automatically enrolled in Medicare or missed their Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). The General Enrollment Period runs from January 1-March 31 with coverage beginning July 1.

Key Things to Know About the General Enrollment Period

  • You can enroll in Part A, Part B or both during this time
  • Coverage begins on July 1 of the same year
  • You may have to pay a late enrollment penalty
  • You may be eligible to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) or a Medicare Prescription Drug plan (Part D) April 1–June 30 of the same year

Are there penalties if I sign up late for Medicare during the GEP?

You will likely have to pay a penalty for signing up late. Missing your Initial Enrollment Period can be costly with Medicare Part A, Part B and Medicare Part D potentially charging premium penalties.

Medicare Part A Premium Penalty:

Part A is premium free if you or your spouse worked and paid taxes for at least 10 years. If you have to enroll in Part A and didn’t sign up when you were first eligible, the penalty for late enrollment is 10%.

The Part A premium penalty is charged for twice the number of years you delay enrollment. For example, if you wait two years, you’d pay 10% for 4 years (2 x 2). The penalty applies no matter how long you delay Part A enrollment.

Medicare Part B Premium Penalty:

In most cases, if you don’t sign up for Part B when you’re first eligible, you’ll have to pay a late enrollment penalty. The penalty for late enrollment in Part B is an additional 10% for each 12-month period you delay. You’ll have to pay this penalty for as long as you have Part B.

For example, if your Initial Enrollment Period ended September 30, 2016 and you enrolled in Part B during the General Enrollment Period March 2019, your late enrollment penalty would be 20% of the Part B premium (2 x 10%) because you waited 30 months to sign up, which includes two full 12-month periods.

You can typically avoid a late enrollment penalty if you meet certain criteria that allows you to sign up for Part B during a Special Enrollment Period.

Medicare Part D Premium Penalty:

The penalty for late enrollment in a Part D plan is 1% of the average Part D premium for each month you delay enrollment. The amount is added to your Medicare Part D monthly premium, which occurs for as long as you’re enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan.

You may delay enrolling in Medicare Part D without penalty if you qualify for Extra Help or have creditable drug coverage. If it’s been more than 63 days since you’ve had creditable coverage, then the penalty may apply.

Can I avoid penalties if I’m eligible for Medicare but also employed?

It’s likely! Many people continue to work after reaching the age of Medicare Eligibility due to having health coverage through their employer insurance. If this describes your situation, follow these guidelines to avoid late enrollment Medicare penalties:

  • Participate in your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period when you turn 65. You may want to consider enrolling in Part A during this time, as it’s premium free as long as you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years.
  • Be proactive and enroll in Medicare yourself. Medicare doesn’t notify you about your IEP unless you currently receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits.
  • You may qualify for a Medicare Special Enrollment Period (SEP) which allows you to delay enrolling in Part B and Part D without incurring late enrollment penalties. You first need to receive confirmation of creditable coverage from your employer.

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