How to Enroll in Medicare
Getting Started Enrolling in Medicare
As you get closer to turning 65 and Medicare eligibility, it’s time to prepare for this transition by learning more about how to enroll. Let’s start with some key important Medicare facts regarding this important milestone.
✓ Medicare is a federal program that offers health insurance to American citizens age 65 and older, and other eligible individuals.
✓ Understanding the different enrollment periods is important to ensure you do not miss deadlines and risk penalties.
✓ For some people, enrollment in Medicare is automatic.
For most of us, however, enrollment is not automatic.
If you aren’t among those who are already receiving social security or railroad benefits, you will need to sign up for Original Medicare (Parts A and B) yourself.
Please note that you won’t receive an official notice on how or when to do this, so it’s up to you to know when exactly you’re eligible to enroll and how to do it.
Enroll during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
✓ Your IEP is triggered by your 65th birthday.
✓ For most, it is your first chance and ideal time to enroll in Medicare.
✓ It is a 7-month window that begins 3 months prior to your 65th birth month, includes your birth month, and the 3 months that follow your birth month.
✓ It provides you the opportunity to enroll penalty-free in Medicare Parts A and B, as well as a Part D prescription plan.
Enrolling in Medicare at Age 65
Turning 65 is an important Medicare milestone because, typically, this is the first time you’re eligible to enroll in Medicare. Signing up for Original Medicare, which is comprised of Part A (your hospital insurance) and Part B (your doctor and outpatient insurance) is the first step in your transition to Medicare as your healthcare provider.
There are two ways to enroll in Part A and Part B. You can either be automatically enrolled or you might be responsible for enrolling yourself. Your enrollment option depends on your specific situation.
For many, enrollment in Original Medicare is automatic when they first become eligible. What does that mean exactly? It means that you don’t have to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B yourself, and that the government does it for you.
If you are receiving Social Security/Railroad Retirement Board benefits before your 65th birthday, the government is assuming that you are no longer working, and you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. For most, this will happen a couple of months before your 65th birthday and your coverage will start the 1st of the month that you turn 65.
Just be on the lookout for your red, white and blue Medicare card, as well as a “Welcome to Medicare” packet, in the mail from the Social Security Administration about three months prior to your 65th birthday.
For those automatically enrolled that do NOT want Medicare coverage, you must contact Social Security and make a formal request to decline these benefits.
When Your Enrollment Is Not Automatic
If you are responsible for enrolling yourself in Medicare Parts A and B, preparation is key to ensure that you don’t miss enrollment deadlines and can avoid coverage lapses and late enrollment penalties.
How To Prepare
We suggest that you start gathering the information that you need to complete your Medicare application about 6 months before your 65th birthday. You’ll also need to determine when your initial enrollment period is. Not sure when that is? You can learn more about your IEP on our Initial Enrollment Periods page, and also check out our IEP calculator below, which can provide the specific dates of your IEP for you.
Ideally, 90 days before your birth month, which is when your IEP begins, you’ll have all of your documents together and be prepared to enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B.
How To Apply for Original Medicare
There are four different ways to apply for Part A and Part B:
Not sure exactly when your IEP is?
Find out with our Medicare Enrollment Calculator.
Still Have Questions About Enrollment?
Still have questions on how to enroll in Original Medicare? Let us help you. We can explain when and how you’ll need to enroll to have the coverage you need, when you need it, without late penalties.