Many seniors wonder when to sign up for Medicare. You can enroll at 65 or depending on your health, you can sign up for Medicare before 65.
It’s likely that you’ll become eligible for Medicare when you turn 65. The best time to sign up for Medicare depends on when you retire or when you turn 65.
If you’re getting Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, enrollment for 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 Initial Enrollment Period (IEP).
When Do You Sign Up for Medicare
Signing up for Medicare 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 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; then, you’ll have a clear understanding of when to sign up for Medicare.
Do You Have to Sign Up for Medicare
Depending on your situation, you might not need to sign up for Medicare when you turn 65.
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.
Do I have to Sign Up for Medicare if I have Private Insurance
If you have private insurance, you may not have to sign up for Medicare. Unless this private insurance is through your employer; once you stop working, you must apply for Medicare.
In most cases when you have both Medicare and private insurance, Medicare is primary and private insurance is secondary.
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 Part A or forfeit your Social Security benefits. Most people choose to enroll in Part A.
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.
For example, if you apply for benefits prior to reaching your full retirement age, there is a reduction in benefits.
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)
How to Sign Up for Medicare
There are some documents you’ll need to sign up for Medicare. These documents include your birth certificate, proof of residency or citizenship, and your driver’s license.
There are a number of different ways to sign up for Medicare; it can be done online, in-person, by mail, or over the phone.
How Do I Sign Up for Medicare Part A Only
Automatic enrollment in both Part A and Part B is possible. Many will have automatic Part A enrollment.
If you’re automatically on Medicare, you should:
- Receive your red, white and blue card via U.S. postal service
- Get 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 IEP.
When Do I Sign Up for Part B
There are specific times that you can sign up for Part B, after Part A enrollment.
Many people 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.
This is the 3 months before, the month of, and 3 months after you turn 65. During this period, you may enroll; coverage will begin no sooner than the month you turn 65.
If you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B during this initial 7-month period, you’ll pay a Part B late enrollment penalty.
Another opportunity is the General Enrollment Period (GEP). This is between January 1st and March 31st. Coverage will then begin July 1st that same year.
If you need to buy Part A you’ll also need to enroll in Part B. The cost of your monthly premium depends on your income and the time you enroll in Part B.
Are you 65 or older? If you have coverage from a current large employer 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 ends or coverage through employment stops.
If you’re a volunteer that’s serving in a foreign country, your SEP eligibility for 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 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 Part A and want to sign up for 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 the rate side by side in your area.