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Sharp Health News

Medicare enrollment periods: what you need to know

Oct. 14, 2021

Calendar and coffee mug on a desk

Mark your calendars: If you’d like to make changes to your Medicare plan or enroll in one, there are a few important dates to remember. You can sign up, update your coverage or switch to a different plan during certain times of the year, known as enrollment periods.

Open Enrollment Period vs. General Enrollment Period
If your health care needs change or your health insurance carrier adjusts your plan’s cost, services or providers, it’s a good time to review your coverage. There are two Medicare enrollment periods to keep in mind: the annual Open Enrollment Period and the General Enrollment Period.

“It’s important to pay attention to these enrollment periods,” says Don Truong, director of sales at Sharp Health Plan, “because missing dates could delay your coverage, or even result in penalties.”

Before choosing your plan, be sure to do your research. Original Medicare, offered by the federal government, has several different parts that help to cover specific services, including hospital and medical coverage, prescription medication coverage, and more.

However, Original Medicare plans don’t cover everything. “Medicare Advantage Plans, like our Sharp Direct Advantage® Plans, offer value-added benefits, like vision and dental coverage, which could help you save money in the long run,” Truong explains.

Annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period
October 15 to December 7

Like its name suggests, the annual Open Enrollment Period happens once per year. If you currently have a Medicare plan, you can:

  • Change your Original Medicare plan to a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C)
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage Plan to return to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B)
  • Change your Medicare Advantage Plan to a different Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Enroll in or drop a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan

Changes made during the annual Open Enrollment Period are effective on January 1 of the following year.

Medicare General Enrollment Period
January 1 to March 31

The actions you can take during the General Enrollment Period will vary, depending on whether you have Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage Plan. The General Enrollment Period is for Medicare beneficiaries to correct changes made during the annual Open Enrollment Period.

During the General Enrollment Period, you can:

  • Enroll in Original Medicare if you missed enrollment when you were first eligible
  • Enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan if you have Part A coverage and get Part B coverage for the first time
  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Drop your current plan and return to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B)
  • Enroll in or drop a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan

You’ll only be able to make one change during this enrollment period. Be sure to remember the dates — you could face a late enrollment penalty if you don’t enroll in time. Changes made during the General Enrollment Period will be effective the first day of the month after your new plan receives your request for coverage.

Get the most out of your benefits
“During the annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period and the Medicare General Enrollment Period, you have the opportunity to enroll in or switch to a plan with added benefits,” explains Truong. “Like our new Sharp Direct Advantage VIP Plan, which offers more value and extras with $0 monthly plan premiums, $0 primary care and specialist visits, and much more.” VIP Plan coverage starts as soon as January 1, 2022.

Need help with your plan?
Sharp Health Plan's certified enrollment specialists are available to answer your questions and offer advice to help you find the best plan for your health needs. They can be reached by email or by phone at 858-499-8211

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