In order to enroll in Medicare, you must sign up during your initial enrollment period, which usually starts three months before the month of your 65th birthday and ends three months after, meaning you have about seven months to sign up.
The enrollment process varies depending on whether you’re enrolling in Part A and Part B, a Medicare Advantage Plan, or Medicare prescription drug coverage.
Figure out which plan is right for you.
Before you can enroll in any Medicare plan, it’s important to know which best fits your needs.
Covers inpatient hospital stays, skilled nursing facilities, and some home healthcare.
Covers additional medical costs, requires you to sign up for Part B, and requires you to pay a Part B premium.
Refers to Medicare Advantage Plans, which are managed health plans that usually offer more extensive health insurance coverage and prescription drug plans. Medicare Advantage plans are often administered by private insurance companies that have to comply with guidelines established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Strictly covers approved prescription drugs.
For more on the different types of Medicare health coverage, see: Which Medicare Plan is Best for Me?
Determine whether you’ll need to apply.
While all Medicare recipients have to apply for Medicare Part B, C, and D, some individuals are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A once they turn 65. Others may have to apply for Original Medicare coverage during their special enrollment period.
For individuals already receiving retirement benefits: You’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A, but will need to enroll in Part B if you choose to obtain medical coverage. If you’re automatically enrolled, you’ll receive your Medicare card within 3 months of turning 65.
For individuals turning 65 within 3 months: You’ll need to enroll in your benefits during your 7-month initial enrollment period by applying online.
If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period:
You can enroll during the General Enrollment Period (January 1 – March 31) but could be required to pay an enrollment penalty for not signing up as soon as you were eligible. Once your Initial Enrollment Period ends, you may be able to avoid an enrollment penalty if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).
If you’re covered under a group health plan from your employer, you could qualify for a SEP to sign up for Part A and/or Part B if:
- You or your spouse (or family member if you’re disabled) is working.
- You’re covered by a group health plan through an employer or union based on that work.
You also have an 8-month SEP to sign up for Part A and/or Part B that starts the month after your or your spouse’s employment ends or the month after group health plan insurance based on current employment ends.
Find the best plan for you.
If you decide to purchase additional medical coverage beyond Medicare Part A, you’ll need to decide if Part C or Parts A and B offer the best coverage options for your unique lifestyle.