When it comes to choosing between Medicare Advantage and Original Medicare, it’s important to keep your Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP) in mind, especially if you want to start taking advantage of a Medicare Advantage plan right away instead of waiting for a later enrollment period.
During this enrollment period, which typically lasts for seven months starting three months before your 65th birthday, you have the option to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or make changes to your existing coverage. This is also the time when you can switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage or vice versa.
The ICEP is a unique Enrollment Period linked with Medicare Advantage that occurs only once in a person’s lifetime, setting it apart from all other enrollment periods. However, it is distinct from the Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) and it is crucial to differentiate between the two to avoid missing important deadlines.
Failing to enroll on time due to a missed deadline could result in a delay in accessing crucial medical benefits, as well as incurring late enrollment fees or both. Therefore, it is essential to stay mindful of the deadlines for both enrollment periods.
Difference Between IEP and ICEP?
Enrolling in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is a crucial event as it marks a significant shift in life from working years to retirement. Failing to enroll in Medicare Advantage correctly during this enrollment window can result in hefty late enrollment fees and difficulties in obtaining the health plan you require when you need it.
To avoid these consequences, it is vital to be aware of your IEP’s specific timeline. The Medicare Initial Enrollment is a 7-month period, commencing three months before the month in which you turn 65, encompassing your birthday month, and concluding three months after you turn 65. For instance, if your birthday falls in December, your IEP begins on September 1st.
Your IEP concludes three months after you turn 65, ending on the last day of the month. Therefore, if your birthday is in November, your enrollment period will end before the last day of February the following year to avoid late enrollment penalties.
Once you determine your IEP dates, you can use them to calculate your Medicare Advantage Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP).
In the aforementioned scenario, an individual who is eligible for Medicare and has a birthday in December would commence their Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP) on September 1, which is also the same day as their Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). However, unlike the IEP which has a fixed end date, the end date of the ICEP varies depending on the person.
Assuming that the individual enrolls in both Medicare Part A and B immediately, the end date of their ICEP would coincide with the end of their IEP. Nonetheless, if they enroll in Part B at a later date, their ICEP would terminate on the last day of the month prior to their enrollment in Part B.
The positive aspect is that the later of the two end dates is the actual end of their ICEP. This grants them additional time to organize their affairs and make necessary arrangements.
What If I am Delaying Part B Coverage During ICEP?
Retirement at the age of 65 is not a feasible option for everyone. If you continue to receive healthcare coverage from your employer group health plan after turning 65, you can postpone your enrollment in Medicare Part B until your retirement.
It is crucial to keep all of your documentation in order and updated so that you can register for Medicare without incurring any late enrollment fees when you are ready.
In the event that you choose to work longer and retire later or lose your employer-sponsored health coverage, you will automatically qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. This period lasts for eight months, allowing you to sign up for Medicare Part B.
If you remain employed for a few more years, you will still be within your Medicare Advantage Initial Coverage Enrollment Period if you lose or give up your employer’s healthcare plan.
Therefore, if you delay enrolling in Medicare Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), you may face late enrollment penalties and gaps in your health coverage.
If you delay enrolling in Medicare Part B during your IEP and miss your Special Enrollment Period you may have to wait until the General Enrollment Period (GEP) to enroll, which is between January 1 and March 31 of each year.
That leads to the fact if you delay enrolling in Medicare Part B without having creditable coverage ( like group health plan coverage that is as good as Medicare) from another source, you may face a late enrollment penalty. The penalty is a 10% increase in your Part B premium for every 12-month period you were eligible for Part B but did not enroll. You will have to pay this penalty for as long as you have Medicare Part B.
Furthermore, delaying Part B coverage may result in gaps in your health coverage, which can be costly if you have a medical emerge