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Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

What is the Medicare Initial Enrollment Period?

If you’re turning 65 soon, this is the right time for you to learn about the Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). To get the Medicare benefits you deserve, it’s important to understand how and when to enroll in Medicare. The window to look at enrolling in Medicare coverage is the seven-month period surrounding your 65th birthday. Called the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) for Medicare, this is the time allotted for enrollment in Medicare Parts A, B, C and D.

Here’s what each of the Medicare parts cover:

  • Medicare Part A is hospital insurance – helps cover most inpatient hospital, skilled nursing home, home health and hospice care.
  • Medicare Part B is doctor’s office insurance – covers routine doctor visits, including specialists, to treat your medical conditions. It also covers preventative services, which is healthcare meant to prevent illness (like the flu) or to detect at an early stage, when treatment is most likely to work best.
  • Medicare Part C plans, also known as Medicare Advantage plans, are offered by private insurance companies and are approved by Medicare. A Medicare Advantage plan replaces Part A and B coverage.
  • Medicare Part D is Prescription Drug coverage.
  • Medicare Part A is hospital insurance – helps cover most inpatient hospital, skilled nursing home, home health and hospice care.
  • Medicare Part B is doctor’s office insurance – covers routine doctor visits, including specialists, to treat your medical conditions. It also covers preventative services, which is healthcare meant to prevent illness (like the flu) or to detect at an early stage, when treatment is most likely to work best.
  • Medicare Part C plans, also known as Medicare Advantage plans, are offered by private insurance companies and are approved by Medicare. A Medicare Advantage plan replaces Part A and B coverage.
  • Medicare Part D is Prescription Drug coverage.

You may also want to consider a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan, also called Medigap, to help pay for medical expenses that Medicare Parts A and B don’t cover, such as copayments, coinsurance and deductibles. You are able to enroll in a Medigap policy beginning on the first day of the month in which you’re 65 or older and enrolled in Part B. You must be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B to be eligible for Medigap insurance.

Key Things to Know About Medicare’s Initial Enrollment Period

  • IEP is the 7-month timeframe that surrounds your 65th birthday. Enrollment starts 3 months before you turn 65 and ends 3 months after you are 65.
  • If you are not currently receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Benefits, you must sign up for Medicare Parts A and/or B. Otherwise, you will be automatically enrolled.
  • If you do not plan to retire at age 65, you can still sign up for Medicare Parts A and/or B during your Medicare Initial Enrollment time frame and elect to get more coverage after you retire.
  • If you plan to retire later than age 65, you can delay your Part B coverage. You may want to delay Part B coverage if you are paying for health coverage via your employer and want to avoid paying the Part B premium.
  • Most people get Part A without a monthly premium but do have to pay for Medicare Part B.

If you’re approaching the age of 65, you should mark your calendar now so you’re ready to enroll when you become eligible. If you’re automatically enrolled, you’ll receive your red, white and blue Medicare card in the mail 3 months before your 65th birthday. If you don’t get Medicare automatically, you’ll need to do one of the following:

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