Medicare Initial Enrollment Period
This is your first chance to enroll in Medicare.
The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is when most people first enroll in Medicare. You need to pay special attention to the specific dates of your IEP. If you miss this window, then you may have to pay more for your coverage.
Your IEP is triggered by one of two situations:
- You are turning 65.
- You are younger than 65 and have a qualifying disability.
Your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period is seven months long and includes:
- The three months before your 65th birthday month or your 25th month of receiving disability benefits.
- The month including your 65th birthday month or your 25th month of receiving disability benefits.
- The three months after your 65th birthday month or your 25th month of receiving disability benefits.
People with certain disabilities may be able to enroll sooner.
You can find your personal Medicare Initial Enrollment Period dates now, if you like.
Turning 65: Medicare Initial Enrollment Period
If you are eligible for Medicare because you are turning 65, then your Initial Enrollment Period begins three months before the first day of your 65th birthday month. It runs through your birthday month and on for three more months. So your IEP lasts for a full seven months.
People with birthdays on the first day of the month are an exception. Their IEPs begin a month earlier than others born in the same month and year. For example, if your birthday is June 1, then the timing of your IEP is the same as people born in May of the same year.
Here are a few more things you need to know if you’re nearing eligibility because of your age.
- Even if you're already collecting Social Security, you must wait until you're 65 to enroll in Medicare.
- You yourself must be 65 to enroll in Medicare. Your spouse’s age doesn’t count.
- You may enroll in Medicare at age 65 or later even if you’re not collecting Social Security yet.
Qualifying Disability: Medicare Initial Enrollment Period
If you are under age 65 with a qualifying disability A medical or physical condition that has lasted, or is expected to last, more than 12 calendar months and that prevents you from working. , then you are eligible for Medicare on the first day of the 25th month of receiving disability benefits. Your Initial Enrollment Period begins three months before this month and lasts for a full seven months.
People who have ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, are eligible for Medicare sooner than people with other disabilities. They can get Medicare the first month that they receive Social Security disability benefits. For rail workers, it’s the first month that they receive a railroad disability annuity check.
Eligibility for people with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant. is based on the need for dialysis. Medicare coverage usually begins the first day of the fourth month of dialysis treatments.
What you can do during your Initial Enrollment Period
Here's what you can do during your Initial Enrollment Period.
- You can enroll in Part A, Part B or both.
- You can choose to get your coverage through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan. You must be enrolled in both Parts A and B to join a Medicare Advantage plan.
- You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan with or without built-in prescription drug coverage (Part D).
- You can enroll in a standalone prescription drug plan. You must have Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn't include drug coverage to enroll in a prescription drug plan. Only certain Medicare Advantage plans allow you to have a standalone prescription drug plan as well.
Making your Medicare selections early can help you avoid rushing to make decisions as your enrollment window closes. Also, you can get your Medicare coverage started faster, even on the first day that you are eligible. And remember, if you sign up after your enrollment period ends you may have to pay more unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period Specific times when people who qualify due to special circumstances may enroll in Medicare outside their Initial Enrollment Period or the General Enrollment Period. Usually, you don’t pay a late enrollment penalty if you sign up during a Special Enrollment Period. . Penalties for enrolling late can increase over time.
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