General Enrollment Period
Between January 1–March 31 each year
Medicare and You 2019 #10050 - Everything you want to know * See their section on closing the donut hole
You can sign up for Part A and/or Part B during the General Enrollment Period between January 1–March 31 each year if both of these apply:
- You didn’t sign up when you were first eligible.
- You aren’t eligible for a Special Enrollment Period (see below).
You must pay premiums for Part A and/or Part B. Your coverage will start July 1. You may have to pay a higher premium for late enrollment in Part A and/or a higher premium for late enrollment in Part B.
When you’re first eligible for Medicare, you have a 7-month Initial Enrollment Period to sign up for Part A and/or Part B.
For example, if you’re eligible for Medicare when you turn 65, you can sign up during the 7-month period that:
- Begins 3 months before the month you turn 65
- Includes the month you turn 65
- Ends 3 months after the month you turn 65
If you have to buy Part A and/or Part B, you can only sign up during a valid enrollment period.
If you wait until the month you turn 65 (or the 3 months after you turn 65) to enroll, your Part B coverage will be delayed. This could cause a gap in your coverage.
In most cases, if you don’t sign up for Medicare Part B when you’re first eligible, you’ll have to pay a late enrollment penalty. You’ll have to pay this penalty for as long as you have Part B and could have a gap in your health coverage.
The best time to sign up is 3 months before your 65th birthday and coverage will start on the 1st of the month of your birthday. Be sure to let your prior carrier know at least 30 days in advance. Especially if it's Covered CA! That way you don't have double premiums and duplicate coverage.
Once you enroll in Parts A & B, you are then eligible to get a Medi Gap Plan and part D Rx or Medicare Advantage (HMO) to fill in the gaps that Medicare doesn't pay. Please note that prescription drug coverage is mandatory with a penalty when you eventually sign up, if you didn't sign up when you are supposed to.
Publication 11036 28 Pages