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What is the Medicare Part D IEP or Initial Enrollment Period?

Your Medicare Part D Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is a seven (7) month window of time that starts three months before your Medicare eligibility month (or 65th birthday month), plus the month of your 65th birthday, and continues for three months after your birthday or Medicare eligibility month.

For example, if you will turn 65 on February 10th, your "Initial Enrollment Period" starts on November 1st (3 months before your birthday month) and continues through May 31st (3 months after your birthday month).

You can use this same 7-month Initial Enrollment Period window to enroll into a Medicare Advantage plan (MAPD - with drug coverage or MA - without drug coverage).

Continuing the example, if you turn 65 in February, your "Initial Enrollment Period" runs from November through May - however, your Medicare plan coverage cannot start any sooner than the first day of your birthday month (or February).  After your eligibility month, coverage will begin the 1st day of the month after enrollment.  So if you enroll in a Medicare Part D plan in February, your coverage will begin on the first day of the month following your enrollment or March 1st.

What if you sign up for a Medicare plan early and then change your mind as you get closer to your Medicare eligibility month?  Are you allowed to choose another Medicare plan before the plan starts?

No.  Once you choose a Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan during your IEP, then you will not be given an opportunity to choose another plan, even if your health or medication needs change.

Bottom line:
  If your health is changing, you may wish to enroll in a Medicare plan closer to your Medicare eligibility date so that you are able to choose the Medicare plan that most economically meets your health and prescription needs.  For example, enroll in mid-January for a February 1st start or effective date.

Important: If you want to have Medicare coverage starting on the first day of your birthday month (February), you should sign up for Medicare no later then the end of January.

Exception to the rule:
If your birthday is on the first of the month (February 1st), then your coverage would start the first day of the month before your birthday (January 1st).

I do not use any medications and have no health issues, so when should I join a Medicare plan?

If you have no health concerns, you can enroll into a Medicare drug plan earlier for a February 1st effective date or wait and enroll later (such as at the end of the IEP) if you do not anticipate needing the Medicare plan coverage - and wish to save on Medicare plan premiums.

Also Important:  If you miss your Medicare Part D Initial Enrollment Period, and then later join a Medicare Part D plan, you may be subject to a permanent late-enrollment premium penalty.

Please read our FAQ: "I did not enroll in a Medicare Part D plan when I was first eligible, how will I calculate my Medicare Part D late-enrollment premium penalty?"

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Tips & Disclaimers
  • The Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plan data on our site comes directly from Medicare and is subject to change.
  • Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed the information on our site.
  • We provide our Q1Medicare.com site for educational purposes and strive to present unbiased and accurate information. However, Q1Medicare is not intended as a substitute for your lawyer, doctor, healthcare provider, financial advisor, or pharmacist. For more information on your Medicare coverage, please be sure to seek legal, medical, pharmaceutical, or financial advice from a licensed professional or telephone Medicare at 1-800-633-4227.
  • We are an independent education, research, and technology company. We are not affiliated with any Medicare plan, plan carrier, healthcare provider, or insurance company. We are not compensated for Medicare plan enrollments. We do not sell leads or share your personal information.
  • Benefits, formulary, pharmacy network, provider network, premium and/or co-payments/co-insurance may change on January 1 of each year. Our PDP-Compare.com and MA-Compare.com provide highlights of annual plan benefit changes.
  • The benefit information provided is a brief summary, not a complete description of benefits. For more information contact the plan.
  • Limitations, copayments, and restrictions may apply.
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  • When enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan, you must continue to pay your Medicare Part B premium.
  • Medicare beneficiaries with higher incomes may be required to pay both a Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA). Read more on IRMAA.
  • Medicare Advantage plans that include prescription drug coverage (MAPDs) are considered Medicare Part D plans and members with higher incomes may be subject to the Medicare Part D Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA), just as members in stand-alone Part D plans. In certain situations, you can appeal IRMAA.
  • You must be enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Members may enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan only during specific times of the year. Contact the Medicare plan for more information.
  • If you are enrolled in a Medicare plan with Part D prescription drug coverage, you may be eligible for financial Extra Help to assist with the payment of your prescription drug premiums and drug purchases. To see if you qualify for Extra Help, call: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048, 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week or consult www.medicare.gov; the Social Security Office at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. TTY users should call, 1-800-325-0778; or your state Medicaid Office.
  • Medicare evaluates plans based on a 5-Star rating system. Star Ratings are calculated each year and may change from one year to the next.
  • A Medicare Advantage Private Fee-for-Service plan (PFFS) is not a Medicare supplement plan. Providers who do not contract with the plan are not required to see you except in an emergency.
  • Disclaimer for Institutional Special Needs Plan (SNP): This plan is available to anyone with Medicare who meets the Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) level of care and resides in a nursing home.
  • Disclaimer for Dual Eligible (Medicare/Medicaid) Special Needs Plan (SNP): This plan is available to anyone who has both Medical Assistance from the State and Medicare. Premiums, co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles may vary based on the level of Extra Help you receive. Please contact the plan for further details.
  • Disclaimer for Chronic Condition Special Needs Plan (SNP): This plan is available to anyone with Medicare who has been diagnosed with the plan specific Chronic Condition.
  • Medicare MSA Plans combine a high deductible Medicare Advantage Plan and a trust or custodial savings account (as defined and/or approved by the IRS). The plan deposits money from Medicare into the account. You can use this money to pay for your health care costs, but only Medicare-covered expenses count toward your deductible. The amount deposited is usually less than your deductible amount, so you generally have to pay out-of-pocket before your coverage begins.
  • Medicare MSA Plans do not cover prescription drugs. If you join a Medicare MSA Plan, you can also join any separate (stand-alone) Medicare Part D prescription drug plan
  • There are additional restrictions to join an MSA plan, and enrollment is generally for a full calendar year unless you meet certain exceptions. Those who disenroll during the calendar year will owe a portion of the account deposit back to the plan. Contact the plan provider for additional information.
  • Medicare beneficiaries may enroll through the CMS Medicare Online Enrollment Center located at www.medicare.gov.
  • Medicare beneficiaries can file a complaint with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services by calling 1-800-MEDICARE 24 hours a day/7 days or using the medicare.gov site. Beneficiaries can appoint a representative by submitting CMS Form-1696.