Medicare Enrollment & Eligibility | Medicare Made Clear

Medicare Enrollment & Eligibility Resources

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Welcome to the Medicare Enrollment & Eligibility Resource Center, your one-stop shop for Medicare information when you turn 65. Here you’ll find the tools and resources you need to feel confident about signing up for Medicare for the first time.

When Can I Sign Up For Medicare?

Around your 65th birthday, you’ll have a 7-month window of time when you can sign up for Medicare. It’s called your Initial Enrollment Period – or IEP for short. Your IEP includes your 65th birthday month, the 3 months before and the 3 months after.

Example: You turn 65 on June 7. Your IEP is March 1 – September 30.

If your birthday is on the 1st of the month, however, then your IEP is determined as though you were born the month before.

Example: You turn 65 on June 1. Your IEP is February 1 – August 31.

The month you turn 65

When Can I Enroll in Medicare? What is the IEP?

When Can I Enroll in Medicare (What is Initial Enrollment Period?)

For most people, the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is the first time they can enroll in Medicare. Get the basics about the IEP.

Am I Automatically Enrolled in Medicare at 65?

Unless you are currently receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits when you turn 65, you’ll have to sign up for Medicare yourself. Medicare may not notify you about your eligibility, so be sure to get your IEP dates and put them in your calendar.

It’s best to sign up for Medicare toward the start of your IEP. That way your coverage will begin as soon as you’re eligible. If you sign up during your 65th birthday month or later, your coverage start date could be delayed.

If you currently receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, however, you may be automatically enrolled. You’ll receive your Medicare card in the mail a few months before your 65th birthday and you’ll still have an IEP during which you may make Medicare coverage decisions.

What Happens if I Miss My Initial Enrollment Period?

If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period, Medicare offers a General Enrollment Period (GEP) for those who did not sign up around their 65th birthday. You could face late enrollment penalties if you wait too long to sign up and don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

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Do I Need Medicare if Working Past 65?

If you are planning to continue working past age 65, you may be able to delay enrolling in Medicare. While many still choose to enroll in Part A during their Initial Enrollment Period, if you have creditable health coverage from your employer, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period and be able to delay enrolling in Part B and Part D without penalty. You may also be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period and to delay coverage if you’re covered under your spouse’s employer’s plan.

In some situations though, you may be required to still take full Medicare benefits at age 65 even if you plan to keep working. One such example is when an employer has 20 or fewer employees.

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How do I Know Which Parts of Medicare I Need?

You’ll decide which parts of Medicare to enroll in based on your personal situation.

  • Most people get Medicare Part A (hospital insurance). It’s premium-free if you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years.
  • Medicare Part B (medical insurance) has a monthly premium* ($144.60 per month in 2020). Some people may delay Part B if they have other coverage past age 65 through an employer or spouse’s employer.
  • Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) has a monthly premium and may be a standalone plan or part of a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan.
You can opt out of Part B if you’re enrolled automatically during your IEP, but you could be charged a penalty if you decide you want it later. The penalty is 10% of the premium for every 12 months past your eligibility date – and you pay it every month for as long as you have Part B. In order to enroll later without penalty, you will need to qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

Example: Your birthday is June 7, 1953.

Your Medicare eligibility date is June 1, 2018. You enroll in Part B in February 2020. Your Part B penalty is 10%. If you enroll in July 2020, your penalty would be 20%.

*For individuals with higher incomes, your monthly Medicare Part B premium may be more than the standard rate.

What are My Medicare Coverage Choices?

You’ll have decisions to make during your IEP, even if you’re automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B. Original Medicare doesn’t cover everything. Private Medicare plans can help fill in the gaps.

  • You might want to buy a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D) or get Part D coverage in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan, because Original Medicare doesn’t include drug coverage.
  • You can also add a Medicare supplement plan to Original Medicare to help pay some of your out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles and coinsurance.
  • Or, you can choose a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) that combines Part A and Part B with prescription drug coverage along with extra benefits such as dental, vision and hearing care – all in one plan.

Your Medicare coverage choices need to fit your health needs, lifestyle and budget – and they don’t have to be forever. You will have a chance to review your coverage and make changes if you want to every year during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, October 15 – December 7.

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Ready to Enroll in Medicare? Here's How

You know when, now learn how to enroll in Medicare. You may have to enroll yourself. Even if you were automatically enrolled and received a Medicare card, you may still need to take action to get the coverage you want.

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Figuring how and when to enroll in Medicare can be tricky. By providing some basic information, you’ll get timely email reminders and information to help you navigate your Initial Enrollment Period as smoothly as possible.