What is the General Enrollment Period?

If you fail to enroll in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) or Special Enrollment Period, you have another opportunity to apply for Medicare. This other opportunity is known as the General Enrollment Period.

When you turn 65, it is important to make sure you enroll in Medicare during the Initial Enrollment Period unless you still have creditable health coverage. However, there are times when you miss the chance or are unaware of the right time to enroll in Medicare. Fortunately, those that miss their IEP can sign up for Medicare during the GEP.

What Is The General Enrollment Period?

If you fail to enroll in Medicare (when you first qualify) during the Initial Enrollment Period, the General Enrollment Period gives you another chance to enroll in Original Medicare for the first time. You can only sign up for Medicare during the General Enrollment Period if you didn’t sign up when you were first eligible, and you are not eligible for a Special Enrollment Period.

The General Enrollment Period occurs between January 1 and March 31 every year. And once you’re enrolled, your Medicare coverage will begin July 1. If the General Enrollment Period ends on a weekend or holiday, Social Security will allow you to sign up at its offices the following Monday or first workday. Moreover, Social Security will accept a written application request if it is stamped by the last day of the General Enrollment Period.

Delaying Medicare Part A Enrollment

Most Medicare beneficiaries qualify for a premium-free Medicare Part A and are automatically enrolled, and those that are not eligible can sign up during their Initial Enrolment or during the General Enrollment Period. However, if you enroll during the GEP, you typically have to pay a late Medicare enrollment penalty, which is usually 10 percent of the premium. 

How long you will pay the late enrollment penalty will depend on the length of your delay. Typically, for Part A, your penalty will last for double the amount of time you went without coverage. For example, if you were eligible for Part A but did not sign up for three years, you will pay your Part A penalty for a total of six years.

Delaying Medicare Part B Enrollment

If you enroll for Part B during GEP, there is also a late Medicare enrollment penalty. The penalty is 10 percent of your premium and will be added to your monthly premium – unfortunately, you will have to pay this extra fee for as long as you have Medicare Part B.

You may be able to avoid Medicare Part A and Part B if you have group health coverage through your employer or spouse’s employer group plan. In this case, when you retire or your coverage ends, you will be able to apply for Medicare during the Special Enrollment Period.

However, despite all this, we still recommend that you enroll in Medicare as soon as you become eligible to avoid any gaps in coverage and late enrollment penalties.

We Can Help!

You don’t have to go through the Medicare process alone. At Medicare Sharks, we have experienced Medicare experts that can guide you through the entire process by ensuring you enroll on time and get the coverage you need.