If you elect to enroll in Medicare Advantage instead of sticking with Original Medicare, you’ll want to pay attention to your Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP).

This is especially true if you’re looking to start getting the benefits of a Medicare Advantage plan immediately instead of waiting for a later enrollment period.

Enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. We have all the information you need to set yourself up with the right plan.

Taking Advantage of Your Medicare Advantage Initial Coverage Election Period

Unlike all of the other Enrollment Periods associated with Medicare Advantage, the ICEP only happens once in your lifetime.

But it’s very different from your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). It’s essential to keep these two enrollment periods in mind so that you don’t miss any critical deadlines.

Delaying enrollment because you miss a due date could mean you’ll have to wait to get the necessary medical benefits, pay late enrollment fees, or both.

Your Medicare Advantage Initial Coverage Enrollment Period Depends on Your Initial Enrollment Period

Your IEP is a pretty big deal. It not only heralds a significant life transition – from your working years into your retirement days – but doing it wrong can slam you with late enrollment fees and make it difficult to sign up for the health plan you need when you need it.

Your IEP starts on the first day of the month, three months before the month of your 65th birthday. So if your birthday is in November, your IEP begins on August 1.

Your IEP ends on the last day of the month, three months after you turn 65. So someone with a November birthday will have to finish their enrollment before the last day of February of the following year, or they could risk late enrollment penalties.

So now that you know your IEP dates, you can use them to determine your ICEP date for Medicare Advantage.

How to Determine Your Initial Coverage Election Period

Using the example above, a beneficiary with a birthday in November would start their ICEP on the same day as their IEP, August 1. But the end date of your ICEP is different from your IEP.

The end date of your IEP is the same, no matter what. But the end date of your ICEP depends on you.

It might fall on the end of your IEP if you enroll in Medicare Parts A and B immediately. But it can also fall on the last day of the month before you enroll in Part B.

The good news is that whichever comes last is the true end of your ICEP, which gives you more time to get everything sorted out.

Delaying Part B During Your Initial Coverage Enrollment Period

Not everybody is ready to retire at 65. If you continue receiving employer coverage past your 65th birthday, you can delay your Part B enrollment until you’re ready to retire.

Keep all of your paperwork organized and up to date. That way, you’ll be able to enroll later without a late enrollment penalty.

If you decide to keep working and retire later – or lose your employer’s health coverage for another reason – you’ll automatically qualify for a Special Enrollment Period that lasts eight months to enroll in Medicare Part B.

Even if you stay at your job for several more years, you’ll still technically be within your Medicare Advantage Initial Coverage Enrollment Period when you give up or lose your employer health plan.


What is Medicare’s Initial Coverage Election Period?

The ICEP is a period where when you first enroll in Medicare, you can make sure your coverage works for you and make changes.

Does Medicare coverage start the month you turn 65?

If you do nothing, Medicare Part B will automatically enroll you. But otherwise, your actual coverage will start on your 65th birthday.

Does Medicare Part A start automatically?

You will be automatically enrolled if you’re already on Social Security or drawing Railroad Retirement Benefits. However, if not, you will have to enroll yourself.

How to Enroll in a Plan During My Initial Coverage Election Period

Once enrolled in Part B, your next step is to meet with a licensed insurance agent who can help you find a Medicare Advantage plan that meets your needs.

If you want help navigating your Medicare Advantage enrollment during your ICEP, we’re here to help. Just contact us, and we’ll get you started. You can also use our online rate form to get rates online.

Written By:
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Lindsay Malzone, Lindsay Malzone is the Medicare editor for Medigap.com. She's been contributing to many well-known publications since 2017. Her passion is educating Medicare beneficiaries on all their supplemental Medicare options so they can make an informed decision on their healthcare coverage.
Reviewed By:
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Rodolfo Marrero, Rodolfo Marrero is one of the co-founders at Medigap.com. He has been helping consumers find the right coverage since the site was founded in 2013. Rodolfo is a licensed insurance agent that works hand-in-hand with the team to ensure the accuracy of the content.