Countdown to Medicare

Countdown to Medicare Enrollment When to Enroll Blue MedicareRx Part D

Medicare Shoppers GuideIf you are new to Medicare, you might like to start with our Medicare Plan Shopper's Guide. Our Medicare Plan Shopper's Guide can help you understand Medicare: how it works, what it covers - and what it doesn't. You will also find helpful information about the range of options available to people who are eligible for Medicare or you can contact us at
1-888-485-8260. We're happy to discuss plan options with you or schedule a one-on-one appointment with a Medicare consultant in your area.

What to do . . . when to do it

Most people become eligible for Medicare when they turn age 65. This is called the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Here’s what to do as you near your IEP:

3-6 months before you’re eligible for Medicare

Continue to become familiar with Medicare and take time to learn about the different plans available that help fill Medicare’s gaps. Visit our Plans section
or contact your employer or former employer to see if Blue MedicareRx is an option for you.

1-3 months before you’re eligible for Medicare

You can now apply for Medicare coverage. Plan ahead so your coverage begins right when you become Medicare eligible.
For information on Blue MedicareRx call:
Medicare Solutions specialists 1-888-264-1568
TTY hearing impaired users call 711
8 a.m. to 8 p.m., daily, local time

1 month before you’re eligible for Medicare

If you haven't done so already, apply for Medicare now so your coverage is in effect the first day of your birth month.

Once you’re eligible for Medicare

Relax and enjoy your health and/or prescription drug insurance coverage. If you've followed the steps above, you'll have the coverage you want in place.

Up to 3 months after you’re first eligible for Medicare

You can still enroll for Medicare and have coverage begin one to three months after you enroll.
If you decide to work past age 65 and have coverage from your employer, you’ll have a Special Election Period (SEP) so you can enroll in Medicare when you choose to retire.

Source: Social Security Medicare Guide

When to Enroll in Medicare for the first time page top

A summary of Medicare enrollment dates are outlined below. We also recommend reading Taking the Mystery Out of Medicare which offers a complete picture of Medicare and the enrollment process.

Original Medicare: Part A (Hospital)

You may enroll in Part A three months prior to the month in which you turn 65 even if you do not plan to retire at that time. Part B enrollment has different requirements (see below).

If you are receiving Social Security Insurance (SSI) at any age, you are automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B after 24 months - you must decline Part B if you don’t want it at that time. During that 24 month period you may qualify for Medicaid/Medical Assistance, use COBRA coverage, or services from state-specific programs.

Original Medicare: Part B (Medical)

There are three opportunities to sign up for Part B:

  • Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): dates depend on conditions described below.
  • Special Enrollment Period (SEP): dates depend on conditions described below.
  • General Enrollment Period (GEP): January 1 — March 31.

Part B Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

  • You can enroll three months prior to, the month of, or three months after your 65th birthday, during the Part B IEP.
  • If you are disabled, you can enroll after your 24th month of receiving Social Security Insurance (SSI). If you want to decline Part B enrollment during the IEP, you must return your Part B notice to Social Security.
  • If you don’t sign up, a 10 percent penalty is typically added to the Part B premium for each 12-month period of eligibility
    • This penalty continues for as long as you have Part B, unless you qualify for the Part B Special Enrollment Period.

Part B Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for new enrollees

This period lasts for eight months and begins when your employer or union coverage ends, or when employment ends, whichever is first. To use the Part B SEP, contact Social Security four months before you retire or when your employer or union coverage ends.

You can use the Part B SEP to enroll if:

  • You or your spouse have medical coverage through a union or employer with more than 20 employees
  • You didn’t have Part B coverage because you went back to work and had group medical coverage

Part B General Enrollment Period (GEP) January 1 - March 31

If you don’t enroll in Part B during the IEP or SEP, you can enroll during the GEP – January 1- March 31 of each year. Coverage starts July 1 of the year you enroll. For each year you’re late in enrolling, you’re charged a 10 percent penalty. This charge increases each year and will continue as long as you are on Part B.

Part B and COBRA

If you’re 65 and continue employer coverage through COBRA, you should enroll in Part B within 8 months from when your COBRA begins. Otherwise, the next opportunity to enroll will be the General Enrollment Period (GEP) which is January
1 thru March 31 and you will incur a 10% penalty on your premium.

Blue MedicareRx: Part D page top

Time Period What you can do When you can do it
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) Enroll in a prescription drug plan, a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage Three months prior to, the month of, or three months after your 65th birthday, or after your 24th month of receiving disability benefits
Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) If already a Medicare beneficiary, enroll in or change to a prescription drug plan, a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drugs or other Medicare health plan Each year from October 15 through December 7
(coverage effective January 1 of the following year)
Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP) Disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and enroll in Original Medicare and a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan, even if you did not have drug coverage in your Medicare Advantage plan Each year from January 1 to February 14
(change effective the first of the month after you submit the request)
Special Enrollment Period (SEP) Enroll in a prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan After an IEP or AEP has ended, if you qualify for a SEP

Enrollment periods for Medicare Supplement plans

Visit the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona website or contact your authorized insurance agent to learn about enrollment periods for BCBSAZ Medicare Supplement plans available in Arizona.

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