Medicare and Medicaid

When Does Medicare Open Enrollment End?

Kathryn Underwood - Author

Nov. 2 2020, Updated 9:45 a.m. ET

The open enrollment period for Medicare is from Oct. 15–Dec. 7 each year. Coverage starts for the new enrollees on January 1, 2021.

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Medicare open enrollment period

Individuals who are already enrolled in a Medicare plan should get an ANOC (annual notice of changes). Review your current Medicare coverage to determine whether you need to make any additions or subtractions or can keep your current plan. 

Source: istock
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From one year to the next, insurance companies may change aspects of Medicare plans, which could impact consumers. When you reevaluate your current Medicare coverage, it’s important to examine your premiums, deductibles, cost of medications, and networks of physicians or pharmacies.

The following are adjustments you can make to your Medicare coverage during the OPE (open enrollment period):

  • If you have Part A or B, you can join or drop a Part D prescription drug plan.
  • If you have both Parts A and B, you can switch to a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • If you have Medicare Advantage, you can switch to Original Medicare (Parts A and B).
  • If you have Medicare Advantage, you can change to a different Medicare Advantage plan.
  • If you have Part D prescription coverage, you can change to a different Part D plan.
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Be aware that open enrollment can't be used for an initial sign-up for Medicare Part A or Part B. 

How does a special enrollment period work?

The SEP (special enrollment period) is available to some individuals who didn't enroll in Medicare during the initial enrollment period. For eligible individuals, there isn't usually a penalty for late enrollment if they enroll during the SEP. 

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The SEP applies if you are currently employed and covered under a group health insurance plan. You or your spouse must be working (or a family member if you are disabled) and you must be covered by a group health plan through that employer. 

If your employment ends or your group health insurance coverage ends, you can sign up during a SEP. In those cases, you have an eight-month SEP to get Medicare Part A or B coverage.

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Medicare Part B late enrollment penalty

A late enrollment penalty may apply if you don't enroll in Medicare Part B (medical insurance) when you first become eligible. Monthly premiums increase 10 percent for every 12-month period that you delay enrollment after eligibility. 

Some conditions can exempt you from a late enrollment penalty, but be sure to read the guidelines carefully. 

medicare enrollment
Source: istock
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What about Obamacare open enrollment for 2021?

Enrollment in the Obamacare marketplace, or coverage through the Affordable Care Act, is available Nov. 1–Dec. 15. Individuals who wish to change, renew, or update their care can go to the healthcare marketplace's website for enrollment information. 

Take note of the Dec. 15 deadline and be sure to sign up if you need coverage starting January 1, 2021. After Dec. 15, you may not enroll for coverage for 2021 through the Affordable Care Act coverage unless you qualify for a SEP. 

Some reasons you might qualify for a SEP include change of residence, change in marital status, or loss of insurance during the year.


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