There are many different Medicare election periods.They each serve a different purpose when it comes to signing up for your Medicare benefits. In this article we will explain the difference between the two election periods that sound very similar. The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) and the Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP) sometimes even overlap, which adds to confusion.

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

First, there is the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) which refers to the first time you become eligible and you can enroll in the Medicare program. The period starts three months before the month of your 65th birthday, extends through your birth month, and ends three months after it. By signing up for Medicare during your IEP you will avoid late-enrollment penalties.

IEP is the first time people can enroll manually if they have to. You will have the option of enrolling in a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan at this time as well, provided you are entitled to Medicare Part A or enrolled in Part B.

Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP)

Looks similar, right? This is the first time you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (also called Medicare Part C). Medicare Advantage plans are offered through insurance companies and  provide at least the same amount of coverage as Original Medicare, Part A and Part B. In order to enter the Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP), you must be enrolled in both parts A and B of Original Medicare.

The ICEP ma sometimes run parallel to the Initial Enrollment Period. This happens if you enroll in both Medicare Part A and Part B when you first become eligible. There is a monthly premium for Medicare Part B, so you have the option to opt out of this coverage during the Initial Enrollment Period. If you opt out, you may not enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.

You can to enroll in Medicare Part B at a later time — for example, during the General Enrollment Period (January 1 — March 31). In this case your Initial Coverage Election Period won’t begin until that time.

If you are on disability through the Social Security Administration (or certain disability benefits through the Railroad Retirement Board), your Medicare coverage will begin  the twenty fifth month of benefit receipt. In this case, your Initial Coverage Election Period will begin 3 months before the month your Medicare Part A and B coverage takes effect, and will end 3 months after the month of your eligibility.

For more information on common questions folks have about Medicare, review the blog articles I have written. Most are written because I have heard the question more than once in my day to day business.

Also, visit You cal literally find the answer to any question you may have on this government site.

As always, feel free to call me with questions.