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What to do if you missed the initial Medicare enrollment period?

There are a number of opportunities to enroll in Medicare. Being aware of all the possible enrollment periods can help you avoid penalties.

There are multiple enrollment windows in addition to the initial seven-month initial enrollment period. If you missed signing up for Part B during the initial enrollment window, you are not working or are not covered by a spouse’s health insurance through work, you may sign on for Part B during the general enrollment period from January 1 to March 31. If you sign up during that period, you coverage begins July 1. However, you will pay a life-penalty of 10 percent for each 12-month period you did not sign up for Part B.

If you are currently working and are covered by an employer’s plan, you may sign up later without penalty during a special eight month enrollment period applicable if you lose employer health care coverage. If this special enrollment period is missed, you need to enroll in the general enrollment phase.

The open enrollment period, from October 15 to December 7 every year, permits you to change Part D plans or Medicare Advantage for the next year. Note that you may now change Medicare Advantage plans outside of the open enrollment period if you choose a plan with a government awarded five-star quality rating.