One of the most confusing things about Medicare is the fact that you can only sign up during certain times. But between the Initial Enrollment Period, Annual Enrollment Period, and General Enrollment Period, it can be more than a little dizzying trying to keep track.

Medicare General Enrollment Period Begins Each Year on January 1st

This short guide has what you need to know about the Medicare General Enrollment.

What is the Medicare General Enrollment Period?

General Enrollment is specifically for individuals who did not sign up for Medicare Part B when they first became eligible.

In most cases, this is someone who turns 65 and is not receiving Social Security or disability benefits. This is the only group of people who are not automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B when they turn 65.

Remember: There can be a Penalty for Delaying Part B Coverage

Unless you’re enrolled in a group plan through your employer, delaying enrollment in Part B could lead to a big penalty. These penalties are either 10% or 20% of the standard Part B premium, and they are permanent for the life of your plan.

It’s critical that you talk to a Medicare professional before delaying Part B enrollment. Be certain that you won’t be paying a penalty later on, and remember that some employers require full Medicare enrollment for benefits to continue.  

When is the Medicare General Enrollment Period?

General Enrollment begins on January 1st each year and goes through March 31st. All coverage purchased during General Enrollment takes effect on July 1st of that year.

Do I Have to Sign Up for Medicare if I Have Private Insurance?

If you have group coverage through your employer and you’re still working, then you can choose to delay enrollment in Medicare.

Am I Automatically Enrolled in Medicare Part A When I Turn 65?

For most people, enrollment in Medicare Part A and Part B is automatic when they turn 65. A few months before eligibility, individuals receive a packet of information about Medicare. This includes an opportunity to opt out of enrollment.

Many people who are still working at 65 choose to delay Medicare enrollment so they can continue to contribute to their HSA. But if you’re not enrolled in qualified group coverage, delaying Medicare enrollment could lead to a penalty.

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Here are some additional articles related to this blog: The Medicare Playbook Update is Here: The Only Medicare Handbook You’ll Ever Need|  5 Reasons to Switch to Medicare Advantage During Medicare Annual Enrollment Period

Here are some additional pages related to this article: Medicare Annual Election Period: October 15 – December 7 | The Medicare Playbook, by MediGap Advisors president, Wiley Long

Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage.