When Can I Enroll in Medicare?

Medicare Benefits Solutions
Sep 18, 2020

Enrolling in Medicare is a milestone for many Americans. Medicare provides health insurance for millions of people across the United States, and there are many options you can choose from. If you’re getting close to your 65th birthday, or you’ve been diagnosed with certain disabilities under the age of 65, you may be wondering when you can apply. Thankfully, the guidelines set forth by the program are pretty straightforward.

What You Need to Know About Medicare Enrollment

The following is some information to help you out:

Enrolling in Medicare

In most cases, you can enroll in Medicare once you reach the age of 65. If you have a qualifying disability under the age of 65, you may also be eligible to enroll. For instance, if you’ve been receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board disability payments for at least 24 months, you may qualify for Medicare.

If you qualify due to age, you can apply for Medicare benefits during the seven-month Initial Enrollment Period that comprises the three months prior to your 65th birthday, the month of your birthday and then the three months following your 65th birthday.

Most people automatically get premium-free Part A when they turn 65 because of taxes paid while working. If you decide to delay enrolling in Part B or Part D, you may also be able to apply for Medicare at a later date, but a penalty for late enrollment may be added to your monthly premium costs.

Please note that this penalty may extend throughout the life of your plan in certain instances. This is another reason why it’s important to talk with your doctor about your future healthcare needs when enrolling in Medicare to make sure you receive the coverage you need, both now and down the road.

Can I Make Changes to My Plan After Enrollment?

One of the nice things about the Medicare program is that Medicare recipients are not locked into a single plan forever. You can make changes to your plan during the Annual Election Period (AEP) that occurs in the fall of each year.

From October 15 through December 7, you have the freedom and flexibility to adjust your Medicare benefits according to your own needs. During AEP, you can switch Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, switch Prescription Drug Plans, drop Original Medicare and enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, or drop your MA plan and revert to Original Medicare.

How Do Special Enrollment Periods Work?

If you relocate and you’re unable to utilize your current Medicare benefits, or you lose your current coverage, you may be able to enroll in Medicare under Special Enrollment Period guidelines. These are designed to allow qualified individuals the chance to make changes to existing coverage or enroll in a different Medicare plan without penalty due to major life changes.

To learn more about qualifying for Special Enrollment Periods or making changes during one of these periods, try the Medicare Plan Finder.

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