If you elect to enroll in Medicare Advantage instead of sticking with Original Medicare, then you’re going to 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 right away instead of having to wait 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 in order to get yourself set up with the right plan.

Taking Advantage of Your Medicare Advantage Initial Coverage Election Period

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

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

Delaying enrollment because you miss a due date could mean that you’ll have to wait in order to get the medical benefits you need, 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 major 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 starts on August 1st.

Your IEP then 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, which would be August 1st.

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 right away. 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, then you can delay your Part B enrollment until you’re ready to fully 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 at a later date – or if you lose your employer’s health coverage for some other reason – you’ll automatically qualify for a Special Enrollment Period that lasts 8 months.

Even if you stay at your job for several more years, you’ll still technically be within your Medicare Advantage Initial Coverage Enrollment Period between the time you give up or lose your employer health plan and the time you enroll in Part B.


What is Medicare’s initial coverage election period?

This 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?

If you are already on Social Security or drawing Railroad Retirement Benefits, then you will be automatically enrolled. 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, then your next step is to meet with a licensed insurance agent who can help you find a Medicare Advantage plan which 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.

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by Lindsay Malzone, Lindsay Malzone is the Medicare expert for Medigap.com. She's been contributing to many well-known publications as an industry expert 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.