For most people, Medicare coverage starts when you’re at least 65 years old. If you’re on Social Security, your Medicare benefits start automatically when you turn 65.
Otherwise, you must sign up.
Know When Medicare Starts
Benefits start on the first day of the month you turn 65. For example, if you turn 65 on June 30th, your benefits start on June 1st. You can get coverage at age 65 even if you’re not collecting Social Security.
People with disabilities, ALS or end-stage renal disease may be eligible for Medicare before they’re 65.
If you qualify for Medicare because of a disability, there is no minimum age for receiving benefits.
Automatic Medicare Enrollment
If already receiving Social Security checks when you turn 65, you’ll have automatic enrollment in Parts A and B. Part A covers hospitalization; however, Part B covers outpatient procedures. You should receive your Medicare card three months before your 65th birthday.
It’s important to know that Parts A and B are the ONLY Medicare coverage that starts automatically. You must separately enroll in any supplemental or alternative coverage.
- a Part D prescription drug plan
- Supplement Plan
- Medicare Advantage plan
- or vision, dental or hearing coverage
If you receive Social Security disability benefits, you have automatic enrollment in Medicare, but the timing of your enrollment depends on your situation.
If you don’t have Social Security, Part A and B won’t start automatically—you need to sign up.
When to Enroll in Traditional Medicare
For most people, it’s best to enroll during your seven-month Initial Enrollment Period. This starts three months before the month you’ll turn 65. It includes your birth month, and it ends three months after your birth month.
If you want your benefits to start at the beginning of the month you turn 65, be sure to sign up at least a month before your birthday. You can also enroll in Part D prescription coverage or a Medicare Advantage plan at this time.
If you don’t sign up for Part B during your initial enrollment period, you may pay a late enrollment penalty. A late enrollment penalty is an extra fee. You’ll pay the penalty every month for the rest of your life.
Some people can delay enrollment without owing a penalty. For example, you won’t owe a penalty if you wait to sign up because you have primary insurance coverage through your employer or your spouse’s employer.
Start Getting Medicare
You can enroll in Medicare online at the Social Security website. You can also enroll by phone or by visiting your local Social Security office.
Once enrollment is complete, you’ll receive a red, white and blue Medicare card in the mail.
When to Start a Medicare Supplement Plan
Medigap is additional insurance that fills in the gap between what Medicare pays and what your healthcare providers charge. Medigap plans can pay for longer hospital stays. They also cover Part A and Part B.
Your one-time open enrollment period for Medigap starts at the beginning of the month when you are 65 years old and enrolled in Part B, and it lasts for six months.
If you sign up during your open enrollment period, you are guaranteed to be accepted into the plan you choose, and the insurance company can’t charge you a higher premium because you have pre-existing health conditions.
If you wait and sign up after your open enrollment is over, you can be turned down or charged more because of your health. A great beginner’s guide is Medicare for Dummies.
Getting started with Medicare isn’t hard, but you do need to know about the rules and deadlines. At Medicare FAQ, we help you understand your options and find the coverage that’s best for you. To get started with a free quote, fill out a rate comparison form or give us a call.