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When Does Medicare Start?

The start date for Original Medicare is different for everyone. If you are new to Medicare at 65, your start date will not be the same as someone who delayed Original Medicare coverage and is just signing up at age 70.

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Thus, there is a multi-part answer to the question, when does Medicare start? Below, we review all the possible scenarios when starting Medicare coverage.

What Age Does Medicare Start?

For most, Original Medicare coverage starts when you turn 65. However, some delay enrollment to remain on an employer plan or become eligible before age 65 due to disability. Others may take zero-premium Medicare Part A at 65 and delay Part B until a future date due to creditable coverage.

Hence, there are several possibilities for when one starts Medicare. Therefore, knowing which route works best in your situation is vital.

In some cases, you may qualify for Medicare before age 65. If someone receives Social Security Disability Income benefits for at least 24 months, they are eligible for Medicare. Additionally, those with end-stage renal disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are eligible for Medicare with no need to meet the 24-month benchmark.

No matter when or how you become eligible for Original Medicare, you must ensure you understand how the benefits work and when your coverage begins.

When Does Medicare Kick in If You Enroll During the Initial Enrollment Period?

For most people, it is best to sign up for Original Medicare during your seven-month Initial Enrollment Period. This enrollment period begins three months before you turn 65 and ends three months following your 65th birthday.

If you enroll in advance, benefits will begin on the first day of the month you turn 65. If you receive Social Security benefits, your coverage will automatically start on the first day of your birth month.

However, if you must enroll yourself, you will need to make sure you apply at least one month before your birth month for coverage to begin on time.

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If you enroll during your birth month or in the three months following, your Medicare will start on the first day of the month following your application.

Once you enroll in Original Medicare, you can sign up for a Medicare Part C or a Medigap plan and Medicare Part D.

When Does Medicare Start If You Enroll During the General Enrollment Period?

If you delay your Original Medicare benefits or only enroll in Medicare Part A and do not have creditable coverage in place for Medicare Part B, you will need to wait until the General Enrollment Period to pick up coverage.

Unlike the Initial Enrollment Period, which is unique to you, the General Enrollment Period is the same for everyone. This enrollment period lasts from January 1 to March 31 each year.

When you enroll in Original Medicare during this time, your coverage will not be effective until June 1. This means you will not have coverage in the meantime.

However, this also means that you will be responsible for paying the Medicare Part B late enrollment penalty since you did not have creditable coverage. Creditable coverage is health benefits that are at least equal to Original Medicare.

When Does Medicare Start If You Sign Up During a Special Enrollment Period?

If you have creditable coverage and delay either part of Original Medicare, you will qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. The most common scenarios are if you delay both parts or hold off on enrolling in Medicare Part B but pick up zero-premium Part A.

Special Enrollment Periods only happen when you have a qualifying life-changing or financial circumstance. This would include losing group coverage. If you qualify, you will have 63 days to enroll in Original Medicare coverage without having to pay the late enrollment penalty.

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Remember, if you do not enroll in Original Medicare during your Special Enrollment Period, then you will need to wait until the General Enrollment Period to receive coverage. In this case, you may be responsible for the Medicare Part B late enrollment penalty.

When Does Medicare Advantage Coverage Start?

The date your Medicare Advantage plan starts depends on the enrollment period and your eligibility. Those turning 65 and enrolling in Medicare can select a Medicare Advantage plan up to three months before the effective date.

When you pre-enroll in your plan, you save yourself from scrambling. Starting Medicare is one thing you do not want to procrastinate.

Many people change plans during the Annual Enrollment Period. If you make a change during this window, your policy will begin on January 1 of the following year.

When to Start a Medicare Supplement Plan?

Medicare Supplement plans (Medigap) are additional insurance plans that fills the gaps in coverage that Original Medicare leaves behind. Medigap plans can pay for more extended hospital stays, deductibles, and foreign emergencies. Your one-time Medigap Open Enrollment Period starts on the first day of the month you turn 65 and have Medicare Part B.

Signing up for Medigap during Open Enrollment means the insurance company cannot deny you coverage based on your health. If you wait until after this window closes, you may need to answer underwriting health questions. This means you can be turned down or charged more because of your health.

Does Medicare Start on Your Birthday?

Original Medicare coverage does not start on your actual birthday. At the earliest, coverage begins on the first day of the month you turn 65. So, if your birthday is July 24, your coverage will begin July 1.

However, there is one exception to this rule. If you are born on the first of the month, your Medicare coverage will begin one month earlier. So, if you are born on September 1, your Initial Enrollment Period will be the same as those born in August.

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How to Get Started with Medicare

The first thing to do to get started with Medicare is to enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B. Once you have your Medicare Part B effective date, you can choose your supplemental coverage.
At MedicareFAQ, we help you understand your options and find the coverage that is right for you. The best part is that our services are 100% free. We help you find the best plans in your area and educate you on all things Medicare.

To get started, fill out a rate comparison form, or give us a call at the number above. We can help you navigate Medicare and prepare for when Medicare starts.


MedicareFAQ is dedicated to providing you with authentic and trustworthy Medicare information. We have strict sourcing guidelines and work diligently to serve our readers with accurate and up-to-date content.

  1. When Does Medicare Coverage Start, Medicare. Accessed June 2022.
  2. When Can I Sign Up for Medicare, Medicare. Accessed June 2022.
  3. Medicare Benefits, SSA. Accessed June 2022.
David Haass

David Haass

David Haass is the Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of Elite Insurance Partners and MedicareFAQ.com. He is a member and regular contributor to Forbes Finance Council and stay up-to-date with the latest Medicare trends and changes. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management from the University of Florida.

8 thoughts on "When Does Medicare Start?"

  1. My husband turned 65 on June 30, 2021. He signed up for Medicare within the allotted time period following his birthday to avoid any fines. We are on COBRA as of 11/2020 due to my layoff, and he is self-employed and on my COBRA plan. His Medicare part A started 6/1/21, but B&D don’t start until 12/1/21. My COBRA insurance provider, Cigna, has stopped paying for many of (not all – they have paid about half!) of his claims since 6/1/21, even though we told them his Medicare doesn’t start until 12/1/21. I’ve talked with Cigna 4 times since, and they’re doing an internal investigation regarding who is supposed to pay. Do you know the rules regarding if COBRA should cover the period before he starts Medicare 12/1/21, even though he is 65? I’m sure we’re not the only people experiencing this issue…???

    1. Hi Carolyn – COBRA is not creditable coverage for Medicare Part B. Therefore, your husband should drop COBRA and pick up Part B and Part D because loss of coverage (voluntary or involuntary) will qualify him for a Special Enrollment Period. With COBRA as his medical insurance, he has been exposed to the late enrollment period for a few months.

  2. I’m 64 (my birth day is march 27 1957
    I plan collecting my ss at age 70
    do I have to sign up for part A when I turn to 65 or can I wait until 70
    between 65-70 can I still have obama care which I currently have

    1. Hi Loi! Part A is premium-free, most beneficiaries choose to enroll once they turn 65. There would be no reason to delay. Once you’re eligible for Medicare, you are no longer eligible for Obamacare. You can keep your coverage if you choose to, but if you were not already signed up you could not sign up once Medicare eligible. If you have a subsidy through the Marketplace, you will no longer receive it and will pay the full premium for Obamacare. In most cases, it’s cheaper to enroll in Medicare vs. keep Obamacare. Part A is premium-free, Part B comes with a monthly premium which is currently $148.50. Then you want to decide between a Medicare Advantage Plan & Medigap plan to fill in the gaps in coverage.

  3. Thank you Lindsay. I have been reading that my Medicare coverage start date will go back (retroactively) 6 months from when I sign up. I don’t understand this, but thought that I would have to stop contributing to my HSA six months prior to signing up for Medicare. But I will plan to stop contributing to my HSA the month before I am enrolled in Medicare.

    1. If your coverage is going to be retroactive, then it’s advised to not make any contributions during that retroactive period. You could be penalized 6% tax on those excess contributions. However, you can always withdraw the amount you paid to avoid paying the excise tax.

  4. I am turning 70 on 8/24/21 and will start taking SS then. I understand that I also will be enrolled into Medicare Part A when I take SS. I will continue to work at a large employer through the end of 2021 where I have a high deductible health plan that I plan to keep to the end of 2021 and drop it for Medicare A and B starting 2022. I am contributing to a health saving account and want to contribute as long as I can. What is the latest date that I can sign up for Medicare? Is this the date I sign up for SS? And, what date must I stop contributing to the HSA?

    1. Hi Richard! You must enroll in Part A if you’re collecting Social Security, so the latest date you can sign up for Medicare is the same date your Social Security starts. Therefore, if you begin collecting SS benefits when you turn 70, you must enroll in Part A at that time. Part A is premium-free, you can have both Part A and your high deductible plan at the same time. Beginning the first month you’re enrolled in Medicare, you’re not allowed to contribute any monies into your HSA. This means you will enroll in Part A, stop contributing to your HSA, and start collecting SS benefits at the same time. I hope this helps!


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