What is a special enrollment period?
Most people enroll in Medicare when they turn 65. Then twice a year, you’re allowed to change your Medicare plan. One time is during the Annual Enrollment Period, which is October 15 – December 7 every year, and applies to anyone eligible for Medicare. The second time is during the Open Enrollment Period, which is January 1 – March 31 each year, and applies only to those who are already on a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D plan.
Special Enrollment Periods are other times you can choose a Medicare plan because of special circumstances. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is currently providing a Special Enrollment Period for people who missed the chance to change their Medicare Advantage and/or Part D plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What are the special circumstances that create a Special Enrollment Period?
When certain events happen in your life, you’re allowed to change your Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) and Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) outside the regular enrollment periods. The timing and types of changes you can make vary for each Special Enrollment Period. Examples include:
· You move out of your current plan’s service area
· You lose your current employer health coverage and are eligible for Medicare
· Your plan changes its contract with Medicare
· You become disabled
· You move into or out of a long-term care facility
· And, in this case, because COVID-19 disrupted the regular enrollment periods
Erin Thompson, Public Affairs Specialist with the Social Security Administration, adds, “It’s important to note that you are not eligible for a Special Enrollment Period for Medicare Part A and B if you have insurance through COBRA, the Affordable Health Act or retiree insurance.”
How do you go about taking advantage of a Special Enrollment Period?
Medicare or your Medicare insurance plan provide a Special Enrollment Period so you can make plan changes outside the Annual Enrollment Period or Open Enrollment Period. To start, reach out to either your Medicare plan advisor or Social Security (for Medicare Part A or B sign ups only). Right now, Social Security is not open for in-person service, but you can call them at 1-800-772-1213, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday. You can also apply online at ssa.gov. Local Social Security office phone numbers are available online, too. Local offices are open 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday – Friday.
Find out if you are eligible for a Special Enrollment Period.
“If you have questions or are unsure if you’re able to enroll outside of the Annual Enrollment Period or Open Enrollment Period, contact your Medicare insurance company or Social Security,” advises Dan Trombley, Paramount Health Care Senior Coordinator Medicare broker/agent sales.
Of course, you also can talk to a Paramount personal sales representative who can help you determine if you are qualified to apply during a Special Enrollment Period. Click here to sign up for an online Seminar or to request a free, no-obligation Medicare workbook.