When Can I Enroll in Medicare?

October 21, 2022

When you retire, health insurance should be a priority. Not having insurance through your employer means you’re on your own for healthcare coverage. In addition, as you age, your risk of needing extensive medical care increases, making Medicare enrollment important for most seniors.

Typically, you’re eligible for Medicare when you turn 65 years old, but they have a specific window when you can enroll.

Here’s what you must know.

The Enrollment Window

The magic age to get Medicare is 65, but you have a seven-month window to enroll in Medicare starting three months before your 65th birthday.

Starting three months before your birthday and continuing for three months after your birthday, you can enroll in Medicare.

If you’re already receiving Social Security, you’ll receive Medicare Part A automatically, but you must enroll in Medicare Part B because it has a premium. You can also choose a Medicare Advantage Plan, which combines Medicare Part A and Part B into one plan.

If you’re enrolling in original Medicare, it’s a good idea to enroll in Medicare Part D (prescription coverage) immediately, even if you don’t need it yet. If you don’t, you might pay the penalty if you want to add it later.

General Enrollment

If you miss your 7-month window, anyone can sign up for Medicare, if they’re 65 years or older, from January 1 – March 31 each year. Your coverage will begin the month following your enrollment; however, you may pay a late filing penalty for not enrolling during the enrollment window.

Special Enrollment – Exceptions to the Penalty

Some people are eligible for a special enrollment period. It’s rare, but here are some reasons you might qualify:

  • You’re 65 but still working, or your spouse works, and you are on his/her insurance. You have eight months after the insurance ends to enroll in Medicare without penalty.
  • You were volunteering in a foreign country.
  • You have TRICARE insurance.

Making Changes

Once enrolled in Medicare, you can change your plans between October 15 and December 7 each year.

Final Thoughts

Enrolling in Medicare before you turn 65, or within the three months following, will cost you the least and ensure you’re covered immediately. Health insurance isn’t something to risk, so enrolling as quickly as possible is important.