Adam, I keep getting mailed different information that mentions Medicare Initial Enrollment or Medicare Annual Enrollment or Medicare Open Enrollment. Are these all the same thing or are they different?
All of these enrollment periods are different enrollment periods and very common points of confusion for Medicare individuals. The easiest one to cover is the Initial Enrollment Period. Your Medicare will begin on the 1st day of your birth month of your 65th year (unless your birthday is the 1st in which case it will begin the 1st of the previous month). The Initial Enrollment Period begins 3 months before your Medicare begins and it ends 3 months after your Medicare begins and during this time you can enroll in any Medicare option (Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage or Part D Prescription coverage).
The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period runs from October 15th through December 7th. During the Medicare Annual Enrollment, you can make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan or you Medicare Part D prescription coverage. You can change as many times as you want during this time but whatever is active as of midnight on December 7th will be your coverage for the upcoming year. Any changes made during this will not take effect until January 1st of the next year.
The Medicare Open Enrollment Period runs from January 1st through March 31st and only applies to people who are on Medicare Advantage plans. There are so many changes each year with regards to Medicare Advantage plans that this time period essentially serves as a trial period for these changes. During this time Medicare Advantage clients can drop their Medicare Advantage and go back to Original Medicare. They can drop their stand-alone Medicare Prescription Part plans. They can also switch from one Medicare Advantage to a different Medicare Advantage and additionally you can enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription plan. So, if you enroll in Medicare Advantage plan it is a good idea to try it as much as possible during this time to see if you like it because after March 31st you are locked into that plan for the year.
It is also important to note that the only Medicare Enrollment Period that effects Medicare Supplements is the Initial Enrollment Period. During this period a person is allowed to enroll in a Medicare Supplement without any health questions so there are no waiting periods on pre-existing conditions. Also, you can change Medicare Supplements plans and companies at any time throughout the year. You do not have to wait for the Annual Enrollment Period to change.