Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
When you're first eligible for Medicare at 65, you have a 7-month Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) to sign up for Part A and Part B.
You don’t need to sign up if you automatically get Part A and Part B, due to the fact that you are already receiving Social Security benefits, even if you are still working. You'll get your red, white, and blue Medicare card in the mail 3 months before your 65th birthday.
Your coverage start date depends on your birthday if both of these apply:
- You sign up for Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and/or Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance).
- You sign up during the first 3 months of your Initial Enrollment Period.
Your coverage starts the first day of the month you turn 65, unless your birthday is on the first day of the month. If your birthday is on the first day of the month, Part A and Part B will start the first day of the prior month.
Most individuals who file an application for Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits 3 months before they turn age 65 or later are automatically enrolled in Part B unless they refuse Part B coverage.
If you are not registered with the SSA to receive benefits and you are going to trun 65 and need Medicare, you can still enroll. For example, if you're eligible for Medicare when you turn 65, you can sign up during the 7-month Initial Enrollment Period that:
- Begins 3 months before the month you turn 65
- Includes the month you turn 65
- Ends 3 months after the month you turn 65
Individuals with disabilities who are under age 65 are automatically enrolled in Part B the earlier of:
- The month they turn 65 if they have received Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits for at least 4 months before they turn age 65. They also are given an opportunity to refuse Part B coverage.
- The month after they have received Social Security or Railroad Retirement disability benefits for 24 months. They also are given an opportunity to refuse Part B coverage
If you won't be getting Part B automatically or you refused enrollment when it first became available, you must later apply for it as follows:
- Apply online at Social Security. If you started your online application and have your re-entry number, you can go back to Social Security to finish your application.
- Visit your local Social Security office.
- Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778).
- If you worked for a railroad, call the RRB at 1-877-772-5772.
- Complete an Application for Enrollment in Part B (CMS-40B). Get this form and instructions in Spanish.
Remember, you must already have Part A to apply for Part B.
When will my Medicare coverage start?
If you sign up for Part A (if you have to buy it) and/or Part B in the following months your coverage will start:
- The month you turn 65, then you will start 1 month after you sign up
- 1 month after you turn 65, then you will start 2 months after you sign up
- 2 months after you turn 65, then you will start 3 months after you sign up
- 3 months after you turn 65, then you will start 3 months after you sign up
- During the January 1–March 31 General Enrollment Period, then you will start July 1
Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
You don't have to enroll in parts A or B during the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) if:
- You are employed after 65 and have satisfactory coverage supplied by your employer
- Your Spouse is employed with satisfactory coverage and you are included in that coverage through the Spouse's employer
As soon as you stop being covered by the employer's policy or no longer are employed by that employer, you should enroll in Parts A and B under a Special Enrollment Perios (SEP) which is 8 months long. Your 8-month SEP window to sign up for Part A and/or Part B starts at one of these times (whichever happens first):
- The month after the employment ends.
- The month after group health plan insurance based on current employment ends.
- If you are a volunteer, serving in a foreign country.
If you follow the SEP enrollment criteria above, there is no penalty.. COBRA and retiree health plans aren’t considered coverage based on current employment. You are not eligible for a Special Enrollment Period when that coverage ends.
General Enrollment Period (GEP)
If you didn't enroll in Plan A or Plan B during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) or a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) you can sign up for Part A and/or Part B during the General Enrollment Period (GEP) between January 1–March 31 each year if both of these apply:
- You didn't sign up when you were first eligible.
- You aren’t eligible for a Special Enrollment Period.
You should pay attention to the fact that you enroll between January and March but your coverage will not take effect until July 1st - leaving you with a gap of coverage of up to 6 months.
If you don't qualify for premium free Part A you must pay premiums for Part A and Part B. Your coverage will start July 1. You may have to pay a higher premium for late enrollment in Part A and/or a higher premium for late enrollment in Part B.
Most people enroll in the premium free Part A when it first becomes available if they are qualified. However, you can decide to postpone enrolling (or never enroll) in Part B. If you do delay enrolling in Part B you may incur a penalty which we will cover in a later post.