Many seniors wonder when to sign up for Medicare. You can enroll at 65 or depending on your circumstances, you can sign up for Medicare before 65.
It’s likely that you’ll become eligible for Medicare when you turn 65. The Medicare enrollment steps depend on you collecting retirement benefits when your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) begins.
If you’re getting Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, enrollment for Medicare Part A and Part B should be automatic.
You will need to manually enroll in Medicare if you’re not receiving either of these benefits during your IEP.
Medicare Eligibility Answers You’re Seeking
Medicare eligibility means making important decisions about your health coverage. Many questions come to mind as we take that next step in life towards retirement.
Common questions include:
- How to sign up for Medicare at age 65
- Is it mandatory to sign up for Medicare at age 65
- How do I sign up for Medicare Part A only
- Where to sign up for Medicare
- Do I have to sign up for Medicare if I have Private insurance
Answers to these questions depend on a variety of circumstances.
Let’s discuss the most frequently asked questions, at the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of Medicare eligibility.
Do You Have to Sign Up for Medicare When You Turn 65
Depending on your situation, you might not need to sign up for Medicare when you turn 65.
For those of you who:
- Currently, have group health policies through your larger group employer
- Are still working and haven’t retired yet
- Have employers group health coverage
You don’t need to sign up for Medicare until you retire. Medicare allows eight months after retirement to sign up without being responsible for any late enrollment penalties.
Let’s dive into some specific circumstances that may qualify you for Medicare eligibility other than just when you turn 65.
Is it Mandatory to Sign Up for Medicare at age 65
Technically you don’t HAVE to sign up for Medicare, although it’s in your best interest to do so.
If you or (your spouse) worked for a minimum of 10 years and paid Medicare taxes you’ll automatically be eligible for Medicare when you turn 65.
If you’re receiving Social Security benefits, you’re given the option to enroll in Medicare Part A or forfeit your Social Security benefits. Most people choose to enroll in Medicare Part A.
How Do I Sign Up for Medicare Part A Only
Automatic enrollment in both Medicare Part A and Part B is possible. Many will have automatic Medicare Part A enrollment.
If you’re automatically enrolled in Medicare, you should:
- Receive your red, white and blue Medicare card
- This card should arrive via U.S. postal service
- Receive your card 3 months prior to the month of your 65th birthday
- Or if you’re on disability – your 25th consecutive month of receiving disability.
If you don’t have automatic enrollment, then you’ll enroll during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP).
Signing Up for Medicare before Age 65
From ages 62 to 70 you can receive your retirement benefits. The longer you delay starting your retirement benefits, the higher your benefit amount will be.
For example, if you apply for benefits prior to reaching your full retirement age, benefits will be reduced.
If your full retirement age is 66, and at age 65 you decide to begin your retirement benefits, you’ll receive 93.33% of your full benefit amount.
Reasons to Qualify for Medicare before you turn 65:
- If you have or currently receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for a minimum of 24 months
- Disabled and unable to work or have trouble performing daily functions
- Have End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)
- If you have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, aka Lous Gehrig’s disease)
Do I have to Sign Up for Medicare if I have Private Insurance?
If you have private insurance, you may not necessarily have to sign up for Medicare. Unless this private insurance is through your employer; once you stop working, you’ll be required to apply for Medicare.
If you have both Medicare and private insurance, Medicare will be primary and the private insurance will be secondary.
When Do I Sign Up for Medicare Part B?
Specific enrollment periods will allow you to sign up for Medicare Part B, after Part A enrollment.
Initial Enrollment Period
You’ll sign up for Part B during the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP); for first-time enrollees, there’s a 7-month window in which you may enroll in Medicare, penalty free.
During this period, you may enroll in Medicare, coverage will begin no sooner than the month you turn 65.
How to determine what your Initial Enrollment Period is:
- Starts 3 months prior to the month of your 65th birthday
- Includes the month you turn 65
- Stops 3 months after your 65th birthday
If you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B during this initial 7-month period, you will pay a Part B late enrollment penalty.
Annual Enrollment Period
The Annual Enrollment Period begins October 15th and will continue to Dec 7th annually
During this period, you can:
- Switch to a Part C plan from Original Medicare
- Switch back to Original Medicare from a Part C plan
- Join, drop, or change Part D Prescription drug coverage
- Change from one Medicare Part C plan to another
General Enrollment Period
The General Enrollment Period is your opportunity to sign up for Medicare Parts A & B.
This enrollment period is between January 1st and March 31st. Medicare coverage will then begin July 1st that same year.
If you need to buy Medicare Part A you’ll also need to enroll in Part B at this time.
The cost of your monthly premium will depend on your income and the time you choose to enroll in Part B.
Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
Are you 65 or older? If you have coverage based on your current employment status at age 65, you don’t need to apply for Medicare Part B.
You might qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) when ready to enroll.
When the initial 8-month period that starts the month after your health plan coverage ends (group) or coverage through employment stops.
If you’re a volunteer that’s serving in a foreign country, your SEP eligibility for Medicare Part A and Part B is possible.
Where to Sign Up for Medicare
Signing up for Medicare is a big deal; if you have any questions, talking with a licensed Medicare expert can make everything easier.
You have different options for where you can sign up for Medicare:
- Visit your local Social Security office and apply there
- You may call Social Security
- Mail in a signed, dated letter to Social Security. Include: name, SS number, and desired start date
- Call RRB if you’re eligible for Railroad Retirement Benefits
Can I Sign Up for Medicare Online
If you have access to the internet, gather all your documents you may need and apply online at www.ssa.gov.
You cannot sign up online if you already have Medicare Part A and want to sign up for Medicare Part B coverage; you’ll need to call the Social Security Administration.
When Medicare confuses you, get yourself a Medicare broker. Our licensed insurance experts can answer all your questions, educate you on Medicare and help you find the best policy for you.
Call the number above to reach a Medicare expert or fill out the online rate form to see rate side by side in your area.