Medicare Dates + Deadlines You Should Know


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There are a number of dates and deadlines to keep track of when enrolling in Medicare. Missing enrollment periods or deadlines can mean lapses in healthcare coverage or late enrollment penalties. If you live with diabetes, gaps in health insurance coverage can make it difficult to get your monthly diabetes medications and supplies and keep appointments with your health care team. 

There’s already a lot to keep track of when it comes to diabetes management. Keeping ahead of these important dates for first-time or yearly enrollment will help you make sure that you have the coverage you need if you rely on Medicare for your health insurance.

Understanding Medicare’s different coverage options

If you’re deciding what Medicare coverage plan to enroll in, It’s important to understand the different parts of Medicare’s insurance offerings.

The two primary Medicare coverage options are Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and Medicare Advantage (Part C). Original Medicare includes separate hospital insurance (Part A) and medical insurance (Part B).  

Medicare Part D is stand-alone prescription drug coverage.

A Medicare Advantage Plan is Medicare coverage offered through a private insurer. Medicare Advantage plans typically combine medical and drug coverage, though that’s not always the case.

Medicare open enrollment period

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP) is the time each year when you can make changes to your Medicare coverage. This includes changing plans or enrolling for the first time..

The OEP runs from October 15th to December 7th each year. Any changes you make will go into effect on January 1.

First-time enrollment 

The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is the time when you first become eligible for Medicare coverage. (This process may look different if you already receive benefits from the Social Security or Railroad Retirement programs.)

You will qualify for an IEP if you:

  • Are turning 65 years old 
  • Have a disability
  • Have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)

The IEP begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after your 65th birthday.

If you have a disability, your IEP begins three months before your 25th month of disability benefits and ends three months after that.

If you miss your IEP, you may have to wait until the next OEP to sign up for Medicare and you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty.

Special enrollment periods

There are some circumstances that may qualify you for a Special Enrollment Period. This could include if you move to a new state, lose your health coverage or are released from jail or prison.

If you have a life-changing event that qualifies you for a Special Enrollment Period, you have 60 days from the date of the qualifying event to enroll in a Medicare plan.

What if I miss an enrollment deadline? 

If you miss a deadline, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty. The penalty may be different depending on the plan you want to enroll in. You may also have to wait until the next OEP to make changes to your coverage.

Set your calendar!

Health insurance, including Medicare, can be confusing and stressful. You certainly don’t want a gap or unexpected change in your Medicare coverage to complicate or interrupt your diabetes management! 

Now that you know the key dates for Medicare enrollment,  mark your calendar, set a reminder or set a date with a friend or loved one to review your enrollment together—whatever it takes to help you sign up for or make changes to your Medicare health insurance.

WRITTEN BY Philo Uwamaria, POSTED 11/07/22, UPDATED 05/22/23

Philo Uwamaria is a health content writer with a knack for breaking down complicated topics. She lives in Nairobi, Kenya.