As a general rule, Medicare starts when people turn 65. If you’re receiving Social Security benefits, you will be enrolled in the program automatically. Otherwise, you must enroll yourself in the program. Starting Medicare can have great benefits.
Most people choose to receive both Medicare Part A and Part B. Part A covers hospitals, while Part B covers doctor’s visits. Also, Part A is premium-free, while Part B does involve paying monthly premiums. After you have enrolled in Medicare, you may choose to buy additional private insurance. Such private options include Part D prescription drug plans, Medicare supplement or “Medigap” policies, or a comprehensive Medicare Advantage plan, known as Medicare Part C. Medicare Advantage plans will include Medicare Parts A and B, and, depending on your Advantage plan, may include Part D benefits as well.
Starting Medicare as Soon as Possible
You can begin receiving Medicare coverage as soon as the first day of the month after you turn 65. However, if you were born on the first of the month, your coverage can start on the first day of the previous month.
If you get automatically enrolled in Medicare, you will start receiving coverage as soon as it’s available. If you do choose to enrol yourself, you should sign up in the three-month period leading up to your 65th birthday. Your Initial Enrollment Period is in the seven months around your birthday. However, if you wait until your 65th birthday or the three months after that day to enroll, your coverage may be delayed.
Medicare enrollment for people with disabilities
If you are under 65 and have certain disabilities, you may also be eligible to receive Medicare coverage. This type of Medicare coverage applied to:
People that receive Social Security disability benefits. If you are receiving these benefits, you will automatically get enrolled in Medicare after 24 months.
People who have ALS – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease- also automatically receive Medicare coverage from the same month that they are diagnosed with ALS.
People that have end-stage renal disease are generally eligible for Medicare starting on the first day of the fourth month of dialysis treatments.
General enrollment period
If for whatever reason, you did enroll in Medicare during your initial Enrollment Period, you can still sign up for Medicare Part A at any time. However, to begin receiving coverage for all other parts of Medicare, you will likely have to wait until Medicare’s General Enrollment Period, which is from January 1 to March 31 every year. If you miss the enrollment period for Parts B and D, you will probably have to pay higher premiums for the rest of your life.
Special enrollment periods
There are some special Enrollment Periods that allow you to avoid penalties. For example, if you are covered by your or your spouse’s group health insurance plan from a current employer, then you qualify for the special period. In this case, you must apply for Medicare when your employment ends or when your coverage ends, whichever comes first.
You will then have two months to enroll in Medicare Part C or Part D, and eight months to enroll in Medicare Part B. If you apply during a special enrollment period and get approved, your coverage starts either the first day of the month that you applied or the first day of the following month, depending on your case specifics.
Open enrollment periods
From October 15 until December 7 is the Fall Open Enrollment Period. You can make various changes to your coverage during this time, such as changing from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan. You may also enroll in Part D if you have not already done so, though some penalties may apply. The change will become effective on the following January 1. You can also take advantage of the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, which is from January 1 to March 31. The period allows you to change your plans or switch to Medicare Parts A and B.