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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 attention to the dates of your IEP. If you miss it, then you may have to pay more for your coverage 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.

Find your personal Medicare Initial Enrollment Period dates

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Turning 65: Medicare Initial Enrollment Period

Your IEP begins 3 months before your 65th birthday month. It runs through your birthday month and on for 3 more months. So your IEP lasts for a full 7 months.

Initial enrollment period birth month timeline

Your IEP begins a month earlier if your birthday is on the first day of the month. If you were born on June 1, for example, then your IEP begins February 1 rather than March 1.

Here are a few more things you need to know:

  • 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 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 IEP begins 3 months before this month and lasts for a full 7 months.

Initial enrollment period qualifying disability graphic

People who have ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, 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

  • Enroll in Part A, Part B or both.
  • Choose how to get your coverage - 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.
  • Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Most include prescription drug coverage (Part D).
  • Enroll in a standalone prescription drug plan if you have Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t include drug coverage. Only certain Medicare Advantage plans allow you to have a standalone prescription drug plan as well.