Your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) begins as you approach your 65th birthday. For the three months leading up to that milestone birthday, during the actual month of your 65th birthday, as well as for the three months after you turn 65, you can sign up for Medicare.
In the past, if you waited until the last three months of your IEP to enroll in Medicare, you would have to wait another two or three months before your coverage began. Due to new rules, this will, fortunately, be changing for the better.
Starting January 1, 2023, if you enroll in Medicare during the last three months of your IEP, your Medicare Part B coverage will begin on the first day of the month after you signed up. You will not have to wait several months to receive benefits.
But what happens if you miss your IEP altogether?
If You Miss Your Initial Enrollment Period
If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period, you then must wait until Medicare’s General Enrollment Period (GEP) or a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to enroll.
The GEP runs annually, from January 1 to March 31. During this time, you can sign up for Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, or both forms of coverage.
Certain individuals are permitted to sign up for traditional Medicare during an SEP, which is a limited-time opportunity that takes place outside of the usual enrollment periods.
Traditionally, there have been a couple of downsides to missing out on your IEP:
1. In the past, if you waited until the GEP to sign up for Medicare, you would have several months during which you would be without coverage. That’s because coverage for those who sign up for Medicare during the GEP do not kick in until July 1 of that year.
2. In addition, if you did not enroll in Medicare until the GEP, you could face a late enrollment penalty.
This, too, will change for the better in 2023.
Enrolling in Medicare After Your IEP Under the New Rule
Starting on Jan. 1, 2023, if you sign up for Medicare during the GEP, you will not have to wait until July 1 for your benefits to begin. Your coverage will start the first day of the month after you enroll.
In addition, individuals who missed their IEP for certain reasons will now be able to sign up for Medicare Part B without incurring a late enrollment penalty fee. The new rule is creating SEPs for people who faced specific ‘exceptional’ conditions.
As of next year, you will not face a late enrollment penalty if you missed your IEP for one of the following reasons:
- You were affected by a disaster or government-declared emergency
- Your employer or health plan misrepresented information related to your timely enrollment in Medicare
- You were incarcerated
- You lost your Medicaid eligibility after January 1, 2023
Note that signing up for Medicare during your IEP is not ideal for everyone’s situation — for example, if you are turning 65 years old and are still working at a job with health insurance. Learn more on Medicare.gov about special situations like this.
Get further details on the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services website.