As you approach Medicare, when and how you enroll are some of the first questions that arise. Medicare Enrollment is sometimes automatic, sometimes not depending on your situation.
How to enroll in Medicare:
You can enroll into Medicare Part A and/or Part B by contacting the Social Security administration.
- Online www.socialsecurity.gov
- In person at your local Social Security office
When to Enroll
Signing up for Original Medicare is different for depending on your situation, below are the most common ones.
Situations that you would be automatically enrolled in Medicare:
You will be automatically enrolled into Original Medicare Part A and Part B if you are drawing your Social Security (or Railroad Retirement Board) benefits. Your red, white and blue Medicare card will arrive in the mail 3 months before your 65th birthday.
If you are on Social Security for a disability, you will be automatically enrolled into Original Medicare Part A and Part B on the 25th month that you have been collecting disability benefits.
If you have ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) - you will automatically be enrolled into Original Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B on the first of the month your disability benefits begin.
Situations that you will need to contact Social Security to enroll into Medicare:
If you are not collecting your Social Security benefits as you approach your 65th birthday you will need to contact the Social Security Administration 3 months before your 65th birthday to sign up for Original Medicare. You can apply for Part A and/or Part B at https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare/ or call 1-800-772-1213.
It's important that you sign up for Part B (or Part A if you need to purchase it) when you are first eligible. There can be penalties and delayed enrollment in Part B (or Part A if you need to purchase it) if you don't sign up when first eligible.
If you have health coverage through your current employers and don't want Part B you will need to contact Social Security to drop you Part B coverage. Please contact your benefit administrator for more information. Please be warned that if you don't have creditable coverage, when you decide to enroll into Part B you could have a penalty. The penalty could be 10% higher for every year you could have enrolled into Part B but didn't. Sometimes there are exceptions to this penalty, for example, if you're covered under a group plan.
When will Original Medicare start?
Medicare Enrollment Periods:
Initial Enrollment Period - this period starts 3 months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after your birthday month. You have a total of 7 months to sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B. If you sign up in the 3 months prior to your 65th birthday your coverage will start on the 1st day of your birthday month. If you wait until your birthday month, your coverage will start the next month. If you wait until 3 months after your birthday, your enrollment into Part A and/or B will be delayed.
Special Enrollment Period – If you miss your initial enrollment period, depending on your circumstances, you may still be able to enroll in Part B during a special enrollment period or (Part A if you haven't worked more than 40 quarters.) Having group, employer, or union health coverage (from yourself or your spouse) is the most common reason to delay enrollment into Medicare. You can sign up anytime while you're still covered by a group/employer/union plan. After your group/employer/union coverage ends, you will have 8 months to enroll into Medicare. During a special enrollment period, there usually isn't penalty for enrolling late.
PLEASE NOTE - Very important – taking COBRA will not count as credible coverage and you will be assessed a late enrollment penalty when you do enroll into Part B (and/or Part A if you need to purchase it.) This means you will have to wait until the General Enrollment Period (see below) and your Part B (and/or Part A) premium will cost more money.
General Enrollment Period – If you did sign up for Part B (or Part A if you need to purchase it) when you were first able (during your initial enrollment period and you didn't have a special enrollment period), there is an annual General enrollment period from January 1 – March 31. Your Medicare coverage will begin July 1. Your Part B (and/or Part A) premium will be assessed a penalty, therefore it will be higher than if you enrolled during your Initial enrollment period.