There are two times a year that you and anyone eligible for coverage can sign up for Medicare aside from your initial enrollment period. During these additional periods, you can also make certain changes to your current Medicare coverage.
If you sign up for Medicare during one of the two yearly open enrollment periods rather than during your initial enrollment (or during a special enrollment period), you may have to pay a penalty fee. This fee typically applies to anyone who has delayed enrollment in Medicare when they could have signed up earlier.
The yearly open enrollment periods for Medicare are as follows:
- From January 1st and March 31st, you can enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B. Your Medicare insurance, however, will start on July 1st.
- Medicare Part A and Part B together are called Original Medicare.
- January 1 – March 31 is the general enrollment period.
- From October 15th and December 7th, you can sign up for Medicare Part D and a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C).
- Private insurance companies manage Medicare Advantage plans.
- Coverage for Medicare Advantage plans start on January 1st.
The penalty fee for signing up during these periods applies to your plans’ premiums. However, if you qualify for premium-free Part A, you will not have a penalty since the fee is based on percentage.
The fees breakdown as follows:
- For Part A, you will have to pay an additional 10 percent for twice the duration you delayed enrolling. For example, you will pay 10 percent more for 4 years if you were qualified 2 years ago.
- For Part B, you will have to pay an additional 10 percent for each 12-month period you delayed enrolling for as long as you have Part B. For example, you will pay 20 percent more if you were qualified 24 months ago.
If you are already enrolled in one of Medicare’s health plans, it’s important to remember that you can also switch your coverage plans during these two periods. However, you can only switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to Part A and/or Part B Medicare during the general enrollment period at the beginning of the year.
Finally, you can only change from Original Medicare to a Part C plan in the open enrollment period at the end of the year.