When should I enroll in Medicare for the first time?
Most people enroll in Medicare for the first time around age 65. Some people may qualify to enroll in Medicare earlier than age 65 with a qualifying disability or medical condition. If you become eligible for Medicare due to age or disability, you will have a 7-month Initial Enrollment Period. The rules for enrolling are different if you are enrolling due to a qualifying medical condition.
The Medicare Initial Enrollment Period
You can enroll in Medicare for the first time due to age or disability during what's known as the Medicare Initial Enrollment Period.
Eligible due to a disability? Your 7-month IEP includes the month you receive your 25th disability check, the 3 months before and 3 months after.
Enrolling in Medicare at 65
Around age 65 you have your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). It is 7 months long and includes your 65th birthday month, the 3 months before and the 3 months after. During this time, you can enroll in Medicare Part A, Part B, Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Part D without penalty.
If you plan to work past age 65 and have health insurance through your employer, you may be able to delay enrolling in Medicare without penalty. Your Medicare enrollment options will depend on the size of the employer and if your insurance is considered creditable.
When to enroll if you can delay Medicare past age 65
If you can delay Medicare past age 65 with creditable employer coverage, you will then enroll during what’s known as a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). This is an 8-month period during which you can enroll in Medicare Part A, Part B, Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Part D. However, it's important to know that you only get the first 2 months of your SEP to enroll in a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan without penalty. Many people don't know this, so it's important to pay attention to when you lose your employer coverage and when you enroll in Medicare.
Do I need Medicare if I am covered by my spouse's insurance?
If you have insurance through a spouse's employer, you may also be able to delay Medicare past age 65. However, this depends on the rules the employer has for covered dependents of Medicare age. Some employers may require covered dependents to enroll in Medicare at age 65 in order to remain on the employer plan. In this case, you'll need to talk directly with the employer's benefits administrator to learn about what you can do about Medicare enrollment.
If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), Medicare offers another chance to get coverage. This is known as the General Enrollment Period.
General Enrollment Period
The General Enrollment Period is available to you if you didn't sign up during your IEP. The GEP runs January 1 to March 31 each year. During this time, you can enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B. If you enroll in Original Medicare during the GEP, you may also be able to add a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan or a Medicare prescription drug (Part D) plan between April 1 and June 30 of the same year. Additionally, once you are enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B, you can enroll in a Medicare supplement insurance plan.
Will I have to pay late enrollment penalties if I miss my Initial Enrollment Period?
Missing your Initial Enrollment Period can be costly. Medicare Part A, Part B and Part D may charge premium penalties if you miss your initial enrollment dates, unless you qualify for a Medicare Special Enrollment Period.
Enrolling in Medicare with a qualifying disability or medical condition
With a qualifying disability, you usually become Medicare-eligible after you've received disability benefits for 24 months. You will have a 7-month Initial Enrollment Period that includes your 25th month of disability, the 3 months before and the 3 months after.
You may also qualify for Medicare due to Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) or end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Enrollment for ALS or ESRD is unique, so you'll want to review the rules for each carefully.
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AARP® Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans
AARP endorses the AARP Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans, insured by UnitedHealthcare.
Insured by UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company, 185 Asylum Street, Hartford, CT 06103 (available in all states/territories except ND, NY) or UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company of America, 1600 McConnor Parkway, Floor 2, Schaumburg, IL 60173 (available in AR, AZ, IL, IN, MS, NC, ND, NJ, OH, PA, SC, TN, TX) or UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company of New York, 2950 Expressway Drive South, Suite 240, Islandia, NY 11749 (for NY residents). Policy Form No. GRP 79171 GPS-1 (G-36000-4).
In some states, plans may be available to persons under age 65 who are eligible for Medicare by reason of disability or End-Stage Renal Disease.
Not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. Government or the federal Medicare program.
This is a solicitation of insurance. A licensed insurance agent/producer may contact you.
You must be an AARP member to enroll in an AARP Medicare Supplement Plan.
THESE PLANS HAVE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS, EXCLUSIONS AND LIMITATIONS. FOR COSTS AND COMPLETE DETAILS (INCLUDING OUTLINES OF COVERAGE), CALL A LICENSED INSURANCE AGENT/PRODUCER AT THE TOLL-FREE NUMBER ABOVE.
Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Prescription Drug plans
Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies, a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan's contract renewal with Medicare. You do not need to be an AARP member to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Prescription Drug plan.
This information is not a complete description of benefits. Contact the plan for more information.