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AEP, IEP, ICEP, GEP, OEP, SEP…Medicare Enrollment Periods Explained

Mature man in blue shirt going through paperwork while working on a laptop at home.

AEP, IEP, ICEP, GEP, OEP, SEP…is your head spinning over all the Medicare enrollment period acronyms and what they mean for you?

Understanding these Medicare enrollment periods helps ensure you don’t miss out on signing up for the coverage you need, when you need it. Keep reading for a simple rundown of what you need to know!

Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

Also referred to as the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, the AEP happens each year from October 15 through December 7. During this time, there are several important things you can do:

  • Sign up for Original Medicare if you haven’t already.
  • Switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or vice versa.
  • Change to a different Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Switch Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.

And if you’re happy with your current coverage, you don’t need to do anything at all!

Mark these important AEP dates on your calendar so you don’t miss a thing!

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

As your 65th birthday approaches, your IEP begins and you’re able to enroll in Original Medicare Parts A and B for the first time. Your unique IEP is 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.

Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP)

If you’re nearing age 65 and planning on signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan, this period is for you. It often occurs during roughly the same seven-month period as your Original Medicare IEP.

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General Enrollment Period (GEP)

If you miss your IEP, then you can sign up for Original Medicare Part A, Part B or both during the GEP. The GEP runs annually from January 1–March 31, and your coverage won’t start until July 1. You cannot select Medicare Advantage Part C or Part D prescription drug plans at this time.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP)

This period also runs annually from January 1–March 31. During this time, people who already have Medicare Advantage can change plans or switch to Original Medicare. You cannot enroll in Medicare Advantage for the first time during the OEP.

Find out if a Medicare Advantage plan is right for you!

Special Enrollment Period (SEP)

When certain events happen in your life, like if you move or you lose employer-sponsored coverage, then you could qualify for an SEP that allows you to sign up for Medicare for the first time or make changes to your existing coverage. 

What about Medicare Supplement insurance? Read this article to learn when to get this coverage.

We hope this Medicare enrollment period primer helps you understand the best time for you to secure your Medicare coverage!

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Colonial Penn is a private company that is not Medicare, Medicaid or MaineCare and is not a governmental agency

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