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New York, NY— March 31 is the last day of the Medicare General Enrollment Period for people who did not sign up for Medicare when they originally became eligible. The deadline for the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, which allows people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans to make changes, is also on March 31.
Medicare General Enrollment Period (GEP)
Older adults and people with disabilities who did not sign up for Medicare Part B or Premium-Part A when they originally became eligible can sign up during the General Enrollment Period (GEP), which runs from January 1 through March 31. As a result of the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act, people who enroll during the GEP will have coverage effective on the first day of the month after they enroll, eliminating some gaps in coverage. Previously, anyone who enrolled during the GEP would have to wait until later in the year, on July 1, for their coverage to start.
Older adults and people with disabilities who didn’t sign up when originally eligible—during their Initial Enrollment Period—and who do not have a Special Enrollment Period and therefore need to use the GEP may also have incurred a Medicare Part B late premium enrollment penalty.
“Navigating Medicare enrollment can be confusing, and the consequences of Part B enrollment mistakes can be significant, resulting in lifetime financial penalties, higher out-of-pocket health care costs, and gaps in coverage,” said Fred Riccardi, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “To help consumers avoid Part B enrollment pitfalls, the Medicare Rights Center is asking Congress to pass the bipartisan BENES 2.0 Act.”
The BENES 2.0 Act would require the federal government to provide advance notice to people approaching Medicare eligibility about basic Medicare enrollment rules, filling a longstanding gap in federal outreach and education.
For each 12-month period that an individual delays enrollment in Medicare Part B past age 65, they will have to pay a 10% Part B premium penalty, unless they have insurance based on their or their spouse’s current job-based insurance or are eligible for a Medicare Savings Program (MSP), which helps pay Medicare costs for people with limited income and savings. In most cases, people will have to pay the Medicare Part B penalty every month for as long as they have Medicare. People who are enrolled in Medicare because of a disability and paying Part B premium penalties will no longer have to pay the premium penalty once they turn 65.
Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
Older adults and people with disabilities who are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan have until March 31 to switch to another MA plan or to Original Medicare with or without a stand-alone prescription drug plan (Part D) during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP).
The MA OEP occurs each year from January 1 through March 31 and is available to people who are enrolled in a MA plan. One change can be made during this period, which will take effect the first day of the month after the month they enroll. For example, if a person uses this MA OEP to change from one MA plan to another on March 12, the new coverage begins on April 1.
Changes that can be made during this period include switching from a MA plan to:
People who are considering leaving their MA plan and enrolling in Original Medicare may want to check into whether they can purchase a Medigap policy. Medigaps are health insurance policies that work with Original Medicare and pay part or all of certain remaining costs, such as deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments, after Original Medicare pays first. There are limited federal and varied state rules that create protected times when someone has a right to purchase a Medigap. Outside of these protected times, companies can refuse to sell a Medigap policy, impose certain medical requirements, charge a higher monthly premium based on health status or age, and/or require a six-month waiting period before the Medigap will cover pre-existing conditions.
Visit Medicare Interactive, a free Medicare reference tool developed by the Medicare Rights Center, to learn more about: