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What if I miss the Medicare deadline?

When you turn 65 you will be able to sign up for Medicare healthcare coverage, but you could face higher insurance costs if you miss the IEP.

When you turn 65 you will be able to sign up for Medicare healthcare coverage, but you could face higher insurance costs if you miss the IEP.

Anyone over the age of 65 years old is eligible to enrol in a Medicare health insurance programme and more than 52 million older people were covered by one of the plans last year.

Each individual’s Initial Enrolment Period (IEP) covers a seven-month window around their 65th birthday; encompassing the three months before and after their birthday month. This means that someone born in June would have from 1 March to 30 September to take advantage of the IEP.

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If you miss that window, don’t fret. There are other ways to sign up for Medicare programmes after that initial period and take advantage of the subsidised health insurance. However missing the EIP can result in extra charges being added to your policy.

What can I do if I miss the Initial Enrolment Period?

The IEP offers the best chance for newly-eligible Medicare beneficiaries to sign up for the healthcare coverage, but that seven-month window is far from the only way to take advantage of the programmes.

If you didn’t sign up when you were first eligible, you can sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B between 1 January and 31 March each year. If you sign up then your coverage will start from 1 July the same year, but you may be subject to penalties and extra charges

There is also the Annual Enrolment Period (AEP), during which people can make changes to their coverage and switch between Medicare plans is they desire. The AEP lasts from 15 October to December 7 each year and any changes you make will come into effect from 1 January.

During the AEP you can switch between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage; join or drop a Medicare prescription drug plan; or switch to a new plan from your current insurer or switching to a new insurer.

Fees for late Medicare enrolment

Medicare offers great value health insurance for those who qualify for it, but missing out on the IEP can reduce the financial benefits of the programme. Failing to sign up in that initial seven-month window can result in long-lasting financial penalties being added to your insurance premiums.

Late enrolment fees can be charged for Medicare Parts A, B and D, but not for Part C, which is also known as Medicare Advantage.

The enrolment process for a programme as vast as Medicare is extremely demanding and the specific IEP is also a useful mechanism that encourages a steadier stream of new signees. If everyone waited until the winter months, when people are statistically more likely to fall ill, the enrolment process would be overwhelmed. To prevent this happening, Medicare beneficiaries are incentivised to stagger their signing up by the late enrolment penalties for missing the IEP.

The late fees are also partially intended to provide extra income for the insurance provider and ensure that the programmes have enough funding to cover their costs.