AEP, IEP, OEP, SEP…Your Medicare Enrollment Period Glossary

Medicare can be confusing enough but add all the different enrollment periods and, well, your head can spin with all the acronyms and different timing . We’ve got you covered with what you need to know.

Medicare Glossary

Retirement is filled with decisions, particularly life insurance, health insurance and retirement savings. Figuring out when to enroll in Medicare just adds to the challenges!

There are different parts of Medicare so using a resource like the Interactive Guide to Medicare from the Center for a Secure Retirement, is a great place to learn more.

Know your enrollment periods

We understand how challenging it can be to understand the terms and jargon surrounding insurance. Unless you are an expert, it’s near impossible to understand the many acronyms and insurance specific lingo. Don’t despair, we’ve got you covered!

Knowing and understanding the various enrollment periods will ensure that you won’t miss out on coverage when you need it. The glossary below explains the four major enrollment periods to help you determine which one best fits your specific situation.

Annual enrollment period (AEP)

This period runs each year from October 15–December 7. During AEP, you can sign up for Original Medicare if you have not previously done so, switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage (or vice versa), change Medicare Advantage plans, or change Part D prescription drug plans. (This period is also often referred to as Open Enrollment but is not to be confused with the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment.)

Individual Enrollment Period (IEP or ICEP)

This is the time when you first enroll in Medicare. It’s a seven-month period that starts three months prior to your 65th birthday, includes your birth month, and ends three months after the month in which you turn 65. You should sign up for Medicare during your IEP/ICEP if you have retired, are planning to retire or are 65 and have no health care coverage. During this time, you can select from Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans.

The IEP and the ICEP are similar because they often happen at roughly the same time. The difference is that the ICEP is your first opportunity to sign up for an advantage plan that replaces your Part A and B plans.

 

Open Enrollment Period (OEP)

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period runs annually between January 1 and March 31. This period is only for those who already have Medicare Advantage. The OEP is not for those wanting to enroll in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan for the first time. However, you can use it to change your MA policy to another or switch back to Original Medicare. There is a one-time change limit during this period.

Special Enrollment Period (SEP)

There are life changing situations that make you eligible to sign up for Part B (and Premium Part A) during a Special Enrollment Period without paying a late enrollment penalty. 

If you no longer have insurance through your work, or another plan provided by a spouse or family member, or you move somewhere that isn’t in your current plan’s service area the SEP may be available to you. There are many other special circumstances that also fall under SEP guidelines.

A Special Enrollment Period is only available for a limited time, and if you don’t sign up during your SEP, you’ll have to wait for the next General Enrollment Period, possibly having to pay a monthly late enrollment penalty.

Medicare enrollment can be confusing and challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Let us help you navigate the enrollment periods and types of Medicare that are available so that you can feel confident in your decisions!


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