There are several ways to enroll in Medicare: Automatic Enrollment, Initial Enrollment, General Enrollment, and Special Enrollment.
Do you already receive Social Security benefits?
- If you already receive Social Security benefits, you qualify for Automatic Enrollment. You will automatically receive a Medicare card approximately three months before your 65th birthday.
- If you receive Social Security Disability benefits, you will automatically get a Medicare card after receiving these benefits for 24 months.
- If you receive Social Security Widow/Widower benefits, you will automatically get a Medicare card after you receiving these benefits for 24 months, or when you turn 65, whichever comes first.
Are You Turning 65 Soon?
- If you enroll during the three months before your 65th birthday, then Medicare becomes effective on the first day of the month you turn 65.
- If you enroll during the month of your 65th birthday, then Medicare becomes effective on the 1st day of the month after your birth month.
- If you enroll during the three months after your 65th birthday, it will take up to 60 days for your Medicare coverage to start.
- If you continue to work past age 65, or you are covered by an employer group health plan from your job or a working spouse's, see Special Enrollment.
Did You Miss The Initial Enrollment Period?
- If you did not enroll during the three months prior to your 65th birthday, the month of your 65th birthday, or the three months after your 65th birthday, you must wait for a General Enrollment period.
The General Enrollment period is January 1 through March 31. Your Medicare coverage will begin July 1. You will pay a Part B Late Penalty: 10% surcharge for each year you are late in enrolling. This penalty continues forever. For example, if you enrolled four years late, then you will pay a 40% surcharge for every year that you buy Part B.
Are You Covered By An Employer Group Health Plan?
- If you continue to work past age 65 and are covered by an employer group health plan, or if you are covered under an employer group health plan of an actively working spouse, you can delay enrollment in Medicare without penalty.
Enroll in Medicare Part A when you turn 65 (remember: it is usually free!). When you, or your spouse retires, or your active employment health insurance ends, you have eight months to enroll in Medicare Part B without any penalty. Note: Health plans offered as a retiree benefit are not considered active employment group health plans.
If you are in doubt about when to enroll, contact the Social Security Administration.
Call (800) 772-1213 or your local Social Security office.