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Medicare Open Enrollment for 2021

Have you been wondering, “How do I enroll in Medicare?” Medicare has enrollment periods that allow you to sign up for Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. Learn about the Medicare open enrollment for 2021, so you will sign up at the right time.

When Is Open Enrollment for Medicare?

Medicare enrollment in 2021 runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. This enrollment period is available if you need to switch or add to your coverage.

During the Medicare open enrollment in 2021, you can switch your Medicare Part D coverage to another prescription coverage option or purchase Medicare Part D for the first time. You can also change your Medicare Advantage plan or move from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage. You also have the option to switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare. If you do that, you can also add Medicare Part D coverage.

You do not have to cancel your previous coverage when changing plans during the open enrollment period. Enrolling in a new plan automatically cancels the current one.

If you take advantage of the 2021 open enrolment period from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, your new coverage will begin on Jan. 1, 2021. You will maintain your current coverage until the new coverage begins.

Initial Enrollment Period

If you are turning 65 in 2021, you do not need to wait for the open enrollment period. Instead, you can enroll in Medicare coverage during the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). This period lasts for seven months, starting three months before your birth month and ending three months after. If you turn 65 on May 15, your enrollment period will begin on Feb. 1 and last until Aug. 31.

If you have employer-provided health insurance, you should still enroll in Medicare Part A during the IEP. You won’t have to pay a premium for Medicare Part A as long as you paid Medicare taxes. If you don’t have health insurance, you will also want to sign up for Medicare Part B during this period. You will need to pay an income-based premium for Medicare Part B.

If you are under 65, but you have received disability benefits or Social Security benefits, your IEP will begin on the first day of the 22nd month of receiving benefits. It will end on the last day of the 28th month of receiving benefits.

Special Enrollment Period for Part B

If you received Medicare Part A but not Part B during the IEP, you can get Part B during a Special Enrollment Period. This period is open to you if you had medical insurance through your employer so did not require Part B during the IEP but then lost it. This enrollment period lasts for eight months, beginning on the date that you lost coverage through your employer. You do have the option of enrolling earlier, so you don’t have to worry about experiencing a break in coverage. After you enroll, your coverage will begin the first day of the following month.

Special Enrollment Period for Part D

If you have Original Medicare but do not have Medicare Part D, you can enroll during the Special Enrollment Period. This period begins as soon as you lose your creditable prescription coverage. This enrollment period lasts for 63 days. Your coverage must begin within 63 days of losing creditable prescription drug coverage to avoid a penalty. Keep in mind that coverage begins the first day of the month after enrollment, so if you wait until the 63rd day to enroll, you will end up with a penalty.

To determine the penalty, the government multiplies the number of uncovered months by 1 percent of the national base beneficiary premium. This premium is $33.06 in 2021. The amount is added to all of your Part D premiums.

General Medicare Enrollment for 2021

If you didn’t sign up for Medicare Part B during the initial enrollment period and you didn’t qualify for the special enrolment period, you will need to sign up during the General Medicare Enrollment. This period runs from Jan. 1 2021 through March 31, 2021. Regardless of when you sign up, your coverage will begin on July 1.

If possible, sign up before this enrollment period, so you do not have to pay a penalty. Medicare assesses a 10 percent penalty on people who do not have Medicare Part B or other insurance coverage for a full 12 months after the IEP ends. However, if you buy coverage during the General Enrollment Period, you won’t get credit for it until the end of the period. That means if you buy coverage on Jan. 1, you will still be considered without coverage until March 31, which is the last day of the enrollment period. If you reach a full 12 months without coverage, you will be charged a 10 percent penalty on all your premiums.

How to Enroll in Medicare

You might be enrolled in Medicare automatically. This happens if you are collecting Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board Benefits by the time you turn 65, as long as you signed up for Medicare Part B when you enrolled in your retirement benefit program. You will also be enrolled automatically 24 months after receiving certain disability benefits.

If you were not enrolled automatically, you can sign up for Medicare at or by calling the Social Security Office at 1-800-772-1213. The office is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays.

If you were employed at a railroad, you will need to sign up for Medicare through the Railroad Retirement Board. You can call the board at 1-877-772-5772. The RRB is open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays.

What About Medicare Advantage?

Do you want to know more about Medicare Advantage? You will get Original Medicare, plus additional benefits with a Medicare Advantage plan. You don’t sign up for Medicare Advantage through the federal government. Instead, these policies are offered by private insurance companies. Speak to an insurance agent to compare Medicare Advantage plans and make a selection.

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