If you are going to be turning 65 soon, you’ve likely started wondering when you will be able to apply for Medicare. Or maybe you delayed Medicare enrollment, but are getting ready to retire and will lose your employer coverage. No matter when, making the move to Medicare can be overwhelming. But don’t worry, we are here to help you navigate every opportunity you have to leave your employer’s health insurance plan and go to Medicare.
Your First Chance
Your first opportunity to leave your employer’s plan for Medicare is your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Your IEP lasts for 7 months, beginning 3 months before your 65th birthday and ending 3 months after your 65th birthday.
If you are already receiving Social Security benefits when you turn 65, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. If you have comparable coverage through your employer, you have the right to delay your Medicare Part B enrollment, but you may incur a penalty for doing so.
Your Annual Chance
If you chose to delay Medicare enrollment during your Initial Enrollment Period, you will still have some more opportunities during the year to make the jump from your employer’s plan. You can come off of your employer’s plan:
- During your employer’s Open Enrollment Period. This is when your employer presents the following year’s plan options to you. You can decide to activate your Medicare if you choose to during this time.
- During the Medicare Annual Election Period, which runs from 10/15-12/7 each year. If you decide to activate your Medicare at this time, the activation will become effective 1/1 of the following year.
- During the General Enrollment Period which runs annually from January 1 to March 31. Anyone who is eligible for Medicare can decide to enroll in Part B at this time, but in general the effective date of your Medicare will be 7/1 of that year.
Your Special Chances
But what if you decide you need to make the move to Medicare during a period that falls outside of the Initial Enrollment Period and the General Enrollment Period? Medicare understands that life is variable. That’s why they allow Special Enrollment Periods (SEP) for qualifying circumstances.
The most common Special Enrollment Periods for individuals looking to leave their employer’s plan are when they lose coverage or are no longer working for that employer. For these situations you will receive an 8 month period to enroll in Medicare beginning the month after employment ends or the month after you lose coverage, whichever occurs first.
We don’t recommend assuming that you will qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. If you think you qualify, you should schedule an appointment to discuss your options with one of our licensed Medicare insurance consultants who can help ensure you don’t miss your opportunity to enroll and experience gaps in coverage.
Something Else To Consider
If you’re happy with your employer’s insurance plan, delaying Medicare Part B enrollment may seem like the hassle-free option. However, putting off applying may lead to lifetime late enrollment penalties and gaps in coverage later in life.
Discussing your opportunities to make the move to Medicare with a licensed Medicare insurance consultant will ensure that you take advantage of the opportunity that is right for you. Our consultants follow a gracious approach to meet your health needs and wellbeing goals. From understanding your needs to completing the enrollment process, we are here for you long after you have answered the question “When can I leave my employer’s plan and go to Medicare?” and we never charge any fees for our services.