How and when do I sign up for Medicare?

If you’re already receiving Social Security or railroad retirement benefits four months before you turn 65, you should be enrolled in Original Medicare automatically. You can expect your Medicare card in the mail about three months before your 65th birthday. You will need to sign up on your own if you aren’t automatically enrolled in Medicare or if you want to enroll in Part C or Part D Medicare coverage.

How to Enroll in Medicare

Your Medicare enrollment process will depend on which type of Medicare coverage you choose. Before you enroll, there are a few things you should do:

  • Decide which Medicare coverage you need. To learn more about Medicare and your coverage options, visit our Medicare 101 page.
  • Check your enrollment period. You can get an estimate of when you are eligible to sign up here.

 

How to Sign Up for Medicare Part A and B

How to Sign Up for Medicare Part C and D

When to Sign Up for Medicare Part A and B

When to Sign Up for Medicare Part C and D

 

How to Sign Up for Medicare Part A and B (Original Medicare)

  • Once your enrollment period is in effect, there are three ways to sign up:
    • Apply online here.
    • Sign up in person at the Social Security office in your area. (Find a location here.)
    • Call to sign up over the phone.
      • Social Security: 800-772-1213 or TTY 1-800-325-0078
      • Railroad employees: 877-772-5772

 

How to Sign Up for Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans) and Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage)

If you want Part C or Part D Medicare coverage, you’ll need to choose an insurance company that offers the benefits you’re looking for. Then you need to sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period or during the Annual Enrollment Period (even if you’d normally be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare). Follow these steps to complete enrollment:

  • Choose an insurance provider and a plan.
  • Make sure you live in the provider’s coverage area.
  • Contact the insurance company to sign up.

Health insurance can be confusing, and with so many providers out there, it can be hard to decide which plan is best for you and your circumstances. Find a Medicare agent in your area who can walk you through your options:

Get help from an agent in your area

 

When to Enroll in Medicare Coverage

Most people should sign up for Medicare coverage during their Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) because if you sign up after this time frame, there are usually late enrollment penalties that result in higher monthly premiums.

The Initial Enrollment Period is a seven-month period that begins three months before you turn 65, includes the month of your birthday, and extends for the next three months.

 

Original Medicare | When Can You Sign Up for Part A and Part B Medicare Coverage?

If you aren’t automatically enrolled in Medicare coverage, you’ll need to sign up during a designated period:

  • Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
  • General Enrollment Period (GEP)
  • Special Enrollment Period (SEP)

 

Initial Enrollment Period

Initial Enrollment Periods are personalized; your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) starts three months before the month when you turn 65 and lasts for seven months total. It is usually best to sign up for Medicare during this time frame. Otherwise you may have to pay a higher premium for late enrollment.

 

General Enrollment Period

Annually (January 1st through March 31st)

If you don’t sign up for Medicare during your IEP, you can sign up during the General Enrollment Period, which occurs each year from January through March.

If you enroll in Medicare during the General Enrollment Period, your coverage will start July 1st of that year. You may have to pay a higher premium than you would if you’d signed up during your initial enrollment period.

 

 Special Enrollment Period

Special Enrollment Periods are sometimes available after your Initial Enrollment Period has ended. If you sign up during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP), you don’t usually have to pay a late penalty.

You will have a SEP if you are covered under a group plan with your current employer or union (or your spouse’s current employer or union) at the time of your initial enrollment period.

If you lose coverage because your employment has ended, you have an eight-month Special Enrollment Period beginning the month after your employment is terminated or the month after your group health insurance plan ends (whichever occurs first).

 

Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans | When Can You Sign Up for Part C and Part D Medicare Coverage?

Medicare Advantage Plans and Prescription Drug Plans are offered through private insurance companies, but you still have to follow guidelines about when to enroll and disenroll based on the following periods:

  • Initial Enrollment Period
  • Annual Enrollment Period
  • Disenrollment Period

 

 Initial Enrollment Period

The Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare Part C and D is the same period as the IEP for Original Medicare. You have seven months to enroll. That seven-month period begins three months before the month of your 65th birthday, includes the month of your birthday, and extends three months after your birthday month.

 

Annual Enrollment Period (Also Called Open Enrollment)

October 15th through December 7th

If you don’t sign up during your IEP, you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan or Prescription Drug Plan during the Annual Enrollment Period from October 15th to December 7th. (This period is also sometimes called Medicare Open Enrollment.) Remember that you may pay a higher premium for late enrollment.

 

Disenrollment Period: Changing Part C or Part D Medicare Coverage

January 1st through February 14th

During the Disenrollment Period, you can make the following changes:

  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare
  • Add Prescription drug coverage to your existing plan

However, you cannot make these changes:

  • Sign up for a new Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another

 

Get Help Signing Up for Medicare

If you would like help finding a Medicare plan that suits your needs or figuring out when to enroll, contact a Medicare agent.

Get help from an agent in your area

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