Medicare registration period ends: what you need to know before applying - ForumDaily
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Medicare Enrollment Ends: What You Need to Know Before Applying

Two key Medicare enrollment deadlines are approaching. First, if you didn't enroll in Medicare when you should have and are not eligible for the special enrollment period, you must enroll by March 31st. Second, if you're already on Medicare and using an Advantage plan, you can switch to another plan or stop altogether, also by the end of the month. What you need to know told the publication CNBC.

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However, each of these options comes with different rules to be aware of, and possibly the need to enroll in Supplemental Coverage, as well as other deadlines. Also, if you miss one of these periods but should have used it, you will usually have to wait for another enrollment window to allow you to get or change coverage.

Here's what you need to know.

1. If you missed your initial registration period, register now

You become eligible for Medicare at age 65 and have a seven-month window to enroll. This initial registration period starts three months before the month of your birthday and ends three months after it.

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If you missed this window and you didn't have appropriate coverage elsewhere—for example, a plan through a major employer—you can sign up for Part A (hospital coverage) or Part B (outpatient coverage) between January 1 and March 31. Enrolling during the so-called general enrollment period means that coverage starts one month after enrollment.

Please be aware that depending on how long you have not completed Part B, you may be subject to a 10% late enrollment penalty for each year you should have enrolled but did not. And this fine, which is attached to your fee, is for life.

You can also enroll in an Advantage Plan (Part C) after you have applied for Parts A and B during this general enrollment period, but this must be done before your Part B coverage begins. The Advantage Plan may or may not include include Part D prescription drug coverage.

However, if you want a separate Part D plan combined with Parts A and B, this general enrollment period is not for that.

“People should check with an agent to see if they qualify for a special Part D enrollment period,” said Danielle Roberts, co-founder of insurance company Boomer Benefits.

If you do not qualify for the special enrollment period, you will generally have to wait until the fall annual Medicare enrollment period to enroll in a Part D plan.

"If there is no valid special enrollment period that an agent can help you with, it's still worth calling 1-800-MEDICARE because they have a better opportunity to approve unusual special enrollment periods," Roberts said.

Keep in mind that Part D also has a lifetime late enrollment penalty if you don't have coverage for 63 days or more. This fee is 1% of the National Basic Premium ($32,74 in 2023) for each full month that you did not have Part D or other eligible coverage.

In addition, people using the general enrollment period can sign up for a supplemental Medicare or Medigap plan.

"The Part B effective date also initiates Medigap's six-month open enrollment period," Roberts said.

2. If Your Advantage Plan Doesn't Work, Change It

Separately, but also between January 1 and March 31, Medicare allows Advantage Plan members to switch or opt out of a plan entirely in favor of basic Medicare (Parts A and B).

Unlike the annual fall enrollment period, where you can change your coverage decision multiple times for the following year, you can only do so once during the current period.

“So if you choose another Medicare plan, choose carefully,” Roberts said, adding that you will be locked into that choice until the end of 2023.

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If you want to switch back to Basic Medicare instead of an Advantage plan, be aware that this switch often means you lose your drug coverage, which means you have to enroll separately in Part D.

Also, if you opt out of your Advantage plan, you will not be able to get Medigap, which many beneficiaries combine with basic Medicare. These plans cover all or part of the cost-sharing for some aspects of Parts A and B, including deductibles, copayments, and co-insurance.

However, they have their own registration rules. So, depending on your state, you may need to go through medical underwriting to get approved for a Medigap policy.

There is an exception to the medical underwriting requirement: if you are within the first year of trying out an Advantage Plan, you can generally revert to Medigap without facing an underwriting.

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Medicare registration Educational program deadline
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