Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
For most of us, the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which is triggered by our 65th birthday, is the first chance and the best time to enroll in Medicare.
Your IEP is unique to you, as it is a 7-month window that begins 3 months prior to your 65th birth month, includes your birth month, and the 3 months that follow your birth month.
It provides you the opportunity to enroll penalty-free in Medicare Parts A and B, as well as a Part D prescription plan.
Understanding what your IEP is and how it works is an integral part of obtaining your Medicare coverage.
Initial Enrollment Versus Automatic Enrollment
Do I have to enroll myself during my IEP, or am I automatically enrolled?
If you are already receiving Social Security/Railroad Retirement Board benefits prior to your 65th birthday, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B when you first become eligible. For most, this is your 65th birthday and your coverage will start on the first of the month of your 65th birthday.
NOTE: If you do not want to enroll in Part A and/or Part B, you must contact Social Security and make a formal request to decline these benefits. See our Helpful Resources & Tools page to access this form.
If you aren’t among those who are already receiving social security or railroad benefits, you will need to sign up for Original Medicare yourself during your Initial Enrollment Period. Not sure how to enroll? See our How To Enroll page and we’ll explain how.
Not sure exactly when your Initial Enrollment Period is?
Find out with our Medicare Enrollment Calculator.
If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period, you could incur a late enrollment penalty (LEP).
If you were not automatically enrolled through Social Security or Railroad benefits, failing to address your Medicare Parts B and D can leave you in a tough spot. Missing your IEP can result in not only delays in coverage, but also late enrollment penalties that will last for your lifetime. Visit our Late Enrollment Penalty page for more details on exactly how much those penalties could cost you.
Note: If you miss your IEP for Parts B and D, any penalties incurred would be enforced for the remainder of your life.
If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period, you risk going without coverage for a significant period of time.
By missing your Initial Enrollment period, your first available opportunity to enroll in Part B would be the next General Election Period (GEP), which runs from January through March. With this scenario, you could apply for benefits during this time, but your coverage wouldn’t begin until July of that year. Therefore, depending on when your IEP occurred, you could be without benefits for a lengthy period of time.
We strongly recommend that you make every effort to enroll during the three months prior to your 65th birthday to avoid any gaps in your coverage.
Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP)
Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP) is a period of time when a person who is new to Medicare can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) with or without prescription drug coverage (Part D). The time and length of your ICEP depends on whether or not you delay your Part B enrollment.
If you enroll in Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) when first eligible for Medicare, your ICEP would then be the same as your IEP for Parts B and D. This is the same 7-month window mentioned above.
If you delay your Part B because you have creditable coverage past age 65, your ICEP begins 3 months before you enroll in Part B and ends the last day of the month before your Part B coverage starts.
Medigap Open Enrollment
If you enrolled in Original Medicare when you were first eligible, you can also purchase a Medigap/Medicare Supplement policy to assist in filling the gaps in your coverage.
This enrollment period begins the month you turn 65, as long as you have enrolled in Part B, and lasts 6 months from the date that occurs.
The importance of this enrollment period is that you can secure a Medigap/Medicare Supplement policy without any medical underwriting being required. This means that if you have pre-existing conditions, you will not be penalized, rated or denied coverage during this enrollment period. Should you miss this enrollment period, you might face these consequences when you apply for a policy in the future.
Determining Enrollment Period Eligibility
Still have questions regarding your Initial Enrollment Period? Let us help you. We can explain when and how you’ll need to enroll to have the coverage you need, when you need it, without late penalties.