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When Is Open Enrollment for Medicare Part B?

Just the Essentials...

  • Medicare Part B can start automatically for SSA and RRB recipients.

  • Open enrollment for Part B runs from October 15 through December 7.

  • New members can sign up during their 7-month initial enrollment period.

  • Once a person is eligible, delaying enrollment in Part B can cause a permanent late penalty to build for each year gone without it.

When is open enrollment for Medicare Part B? - Open Enrollment

There are specific periods in which qualified individuals can sign up for Medicare Part B medical insurance. If you have to sign up, or if you want to make changes to your coverage, prepare by knowing which times of year you can do so.

Some people automatically enroll in Medicare, while others have to sign up themselves.

The Open enrollment Period, the annual sign-up period for Medicare, runs from October 15 through December 7. Every eligible person can add, switch, drop or change Medicare Parts or health plans.

For example, one can move to Original Medicare from Medicare Advantage, and vice versa. Part D plans follow in the same way.

The exception to the Open Enrollment Period is Medigap. These policies help pay beyond Medicare’s normal limits. But, if you apply later than 6 months after your Initial Enrollment Period ends, Medigap can deny coverage due to pre-existing health conditions.

Medicare members often choose between keeping Original Medicare, or getting health coverage through a private Medicare Advantage plan. These plans cover the hospital and medical services of Medicare, and could also include benefits above and beyond Original Medicare.

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Automatic Enrollment in Part B

Most people have to sign up for Medicare themselves at the right time, but some people become automatically enrolled.

Those under 65 with disability enroll automatically in Parts A and B after 24 months of Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board income.

For those who have been receiving income benefits for at least 4 months when turning 65, they also automatically enroll in Medicare.

Automatic enrollment in Part A and Part B would only require action from the beneficiary if they wish to accept Part A only.

Part A comes premium-free for applicants that have worked at least ten years during their careers while paying taxes. Part B requires payment of a premium for most people.

When can you first sign up for Part B?

When is open enrollment for Medicare Part B? - Medicare Enrollment Form

You can go to the Medicare website and find out your eligibility date for Medicare. Medicare’s secure site provides a calculator that answers when to sign up for Medicare, and how much premiums will cost.

For most, the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is the earliest time to sign up for Part B. A person’s IEP begins three months before their 65th birthday month, includes their full birthday month, and ends three full months after.

This seven-month period is designed to promote a thoughtful review of healthcare needs and costs.

The big choice for most applicants lies between Medicare Advantage and Original Medicare.

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Other Sign Up Periods for Part B

When is open enrollment for Medicare Part B?

If someone misses their Initial Enrollment Period, there are additional times to enroll other than the Open Enrollment Period.

The General Enrollment Period (GEP) runs from January 1 through March 31 of each calendar year. General Enrollment is the opportunity to add Part B for those that delayed until after their initial enrollment period.

If using General Enrollment Period to sign up for Part B, coverage begins July 1. The GEP also allows beneficiaries to add a Part D Prescription Drug policy that starts the month after signing up.

Special Enrollment Periods (SEP) help people who were unable to apply due to life changes, or exceptional circumstances. For example, qualifying life events include moving out of the service area of your current health plan, or a natural disaster. Many other SEPs exist as well.

The Medicare Advantage disenrollment period lasts from January 1 through February 14. During this time members of Medicare Advantage can switch back to Original Medicare. They can also add a Part D drug plan to the Original Medicare before the February 14 deadline.

However, during this disenrollment period beneficiaries cannot join Medicare Advantage from Original Medicare or switch from one Part D drug plan to another.

Signing Up Late for Part B

When is open enrollment for Medicare Part B? - Medicare Enrollment Form

The timing of the Medicare Part B sign-up can make a big difference in costs and options.

Late sign-up can cause a lifetime penalty of ten percent, multiplied by the number of full years you were eligible but went without Part B.

Because Part B has a premium, many people delay signing up at first.

However, if covered by a creditable employer, union, or group plan, Part B enrollment can be delayed without penalty.

In these cases where Part B is delayed, Medicare allows a special enrollment period starting when a person loses their group coverage. This special eight-month window permits sign-up for Part B without penalty.

What Part B Covers

Part B covers a wide range of outpatient services including Durable Medical Equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and medical supplies.

Medicare Part B covers about 80% of medically necessary services that don’t require a hospital stay. An annual deductible applies before this sharing of medical costs begins, and in 2021 that deductible is $203.

Over the course of a year, the deductible and 20% of expenses can add up to a significant amount, particularly for those with complex medical needs.

The remedy for the twenty percent payment may be a Medicare Supplement policy.

Medicare Supplements Fill the Gap

When is open enrollment for Medicare Part B?

A Medicare Supplement plan, or Medigap, is the gap insurance that goes with Medicare Part A and Part B.

Because Original Medicare leaves 20% of out of pocket costs to the consumer, Medicare Supplements can pay some or all of these costs.

Sold in letter-identified plans A-K, each Medigap insurance plan letter is standardized to an exact level of coverage. Some even cover overseas travel.

Medigap guarantees acceptance during the initial open enrollment and within 6 months afterward. Beyond that, Medigap carriers can ask health questions to deny applicants who have certain pre-existing conditions.

Because each lettered plan is standardized, the only difference between Medigap policies of the same letter is the premium charged by the insurance carrier.


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