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General and special enrollment periods for Medicare

Medicare health insurance is an invaluable resource to help ensure that older individuals can afford to receive appropriate medical care throughout their golden years.

As a senior citizen approaches age 65 and looks ahead to Medicare coverage, there may be different possible enrollment periods to consider. Missing an applicable enrollment period can leave an elder without any health insurance coverage for several months.

The enrollment periods to understand include both the Initial Enrollment Period as well as Special Enrollment Periods.

Initial Enrollment Period

The IEP applies to those that will not be deferring Medicare sign up due to creditable coverage had through current employment. Those approaching age 65 have a seven-month window in which to enroll in Medicare. The inclusive months are the birthday month, the three prior months, and the three subsequent months.

While the senior can apply for Medicare during any of those seven months, the date he does so will determine the effective date of the coverage. If one applies during the three earliest months, coverage will be available on the first day of the birthday month. Enrolling in the birthday month will provide coverage on the first day of the following month. If the individual signs up in the first, second or third month after the birthday month, coverage will begin in third, fifth and sixth month following the birthday month respectively.

Special Enrollment Periods

As explained by AARP, while a senior is working and enjoying employment connected group health insurance, he or she and the covered spouse have an ongoing SEP they may use at anytime. If that coverage or employment ends, the worker or spouse has eight months starting the month after the coverage or employment ends to sign up. The coverage will begin on the first day of the month following the enrollment.

The individual can plan his enrollment to ensure that he or she has no gap in insurance coverage between the end date of the employment group coverage and the start of the Medicare coverage.