The 2017 Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) for Medicare will run from October 15, 2016, through December 7, 2016. Below are some important dates and deadlines to be aware of:
- October 15, 2016: Medicare Open Enrollment starts. This is the first day to in a 2016 Medicare plan, whether you’re a current beneficiary or new to the program. During this time, you can sign up for Medicare Advantage (Part C) or Part D, or you can change your coverage.
- December 7, 2016: 2017 Medicare Open Enrollment ends.
- January 1, 2017: This is the first day your coverage starts for your new plan; any previous changes take effect
- January 1 – February 14, 2017: Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period. Medicare Advantage enrollees can switch back to original Medicare. You can also sign up for Medicare Part D plans in this period if you drop an MA plan and switch to original Medicare without drug coverage.
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) – If you’re new to Medicare and turning 65, you can actually enroll outside of the Open Enrollment Period in a period called the “Initial Enrollment Period.” In fact, this is the best time to enroll. Your initial eligibility window begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after; it includes your entire 65th birthday month as well. If you enroll within this period, your coverage will start no sooner than your birthday month, but if you miss this window, you’ll have to wait to enroll during the Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage or Part D plans. General enrollment for original Medicare runs from January 1 through March 31 of each year.
There are also special enrollment periods for unique cases such as if you are disabled or have group insurance through an employer. The Medicare website offers an overview of special circumstances.
What if I miss the Open Enrollment Period?
You can only sign up for Medicare, Medicare Advantage or Part D coverage during designated times unless you qualify for a special enrollment period. Failure to enroll during your initial eligibility window may mean a late enrollment penalty, including:
- Part A — Your monthly premium may go up 10 percent. You’ll pay the higher premium for twice the number of years you could have had Part A, but didn’t sign up.
- Part B – You’ll likely pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B. Your monthly premium may increase by 10 percent for each full 12-month period you could have had Part B, but didn’t sign up.
- Part D – Your late enrollment penalty, calculated by Medicare, will be:
- 1 percent of the “national base beneficiary premium” ($34.10 in 2016), multiplied by the number of full, uncovered months without Part D or creditable coverage.
- You’ll also pay your plan’s monthly Medicare Part D premium, plus 1 percent of the national base Medicare Part D monthly premium for each month without creditable prescription drug coverage
- In 2017, the national base beneficiary premium increases to $35.63, so fees will go up as well.