Medicare Enrollment & Eligibility | Medicare Made Clear

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.

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 Initial Enrollment Period (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 before your 65th birthday. You'll still have an IEP, during which you may make Medicare coverage decisions.

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You’ll get timely email reminders and information to help you navigate your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period as smoothly as possible.

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When Can I Enroll in Medicare?

For most people, the first time you can enroll in Medicare is around your 65th birthday. You can also qualify to enroll in Medicare with a qualifying disability or medical condition.

For disability, you'll be eligible for Medicare after you've received disability benefits for 24 months.

For a qualifying medical condition such as Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) or end-stage renal disease (ESRD), eligibility dates are calculated differently. You can use this tool to find your Medicare eligibility dates for disability or medical condition.

The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

Around your 65th birthday (or 25th disability check), 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, however, your birthday is on the 1st of the month, 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

Watch this video about the Medicare Initial Enrollment Period to learn more

The Medicare 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.

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.

Medicare General Enrollment Period

The GEP is January 1 – March 31 every year. Here's what you need to know:

  • You can enroll in Part A, Part B or both during the time.
  • Coverage begins on July 1 of the same year.
  • You may have to pay a late enrollment penalty.
  • You may be eligible to enroll in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) or a prescription drug (Part D) plan April 1 – June 30 of the same year.

Do I Need Medicare If Working Past 65?

WP65 Image for IEPpage

If you are planning to continue working past age 65, you may be able to delay enrolling in Medicare. If you have credible health coverage from your employer or are covered under a spouse's employer plan, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period and be able to delay enrolling without penalty.

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

Find Out If You Can Delay Enrolling in Medicare

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. Consider your health and lifestyle needs, your employment status, health conditions, prescription drug use and if you need dental or vision coverage.

See How All the Parts of Medicare Can be Combined

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, and Medicare coverage offered by private insurers – such as a Medicare Advantage or a Part D plan – could help fill in the gaps.

Your Medicare coverage choices need to fit your health needs, lifestyle and budget. You will have a chance to review your coverage and make changes each year during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, Oct. 15 – Dec. 7

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