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Medicare General Enrollment Period

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Did you miss your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)? That’s the time (often a seven-month period, depending on your eligibility) when you first qualify for Medicare, and it’s a good time to enroll in the program. You don’t need to sign up for Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, if you’re automatically enrolled. See Do I Need to Apply for Medicare? if you’re not sure whether you qualify for automatic enrollment.

If you weren’t automatically enrolled in Medicare, and you missed your IEP, you can still apply for Medicare Part A and/or Medicare Part B during the General Enrollment Period, which runs from January 1 to March 31 each year. If you enroll in Medicare during the General Enrollment Period, your coverage begins on July 1.

If you enroll during the General Enrollment Period instead of during the IEP, you could face late-enrollment penalties. These examples use Medicare premiums for 2020.

  • Most Medicare beneficiaries qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A (you qualify if you or your spouse worked at least 10 years while paying Medicare taxes). If you don’t, your monthly Part A premium could increase by 10% if you delay enrollment. You could have to pay this penalty for twice the number of years that you could have been enrolled in Medicare Part A, but weren’t. For example, if you pay $458 per month for Medicare Part A, and you delayed enrollment for two years after you were eligible, your premium could go up to $503.8 per month ($458 plus 10%, or $45.80) for four years.

Your monthly Medicare Part B premium may go up 10% for each 12-month period you were eligible for, but did not enroll in, Part B. For example, if your Part B premium is $144.60 per month, and you delayed enrollment for two years after you were eligible, your premium could go up to $173.52 per month. You would have to continue paying this penalty for as long as you’re enrolled in Medicare Part B unless you meet certain conditions that qualify you for a Special Enrollment Period.

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