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Initial Enrollment Period

Automatic Enrollment for Parts A & B

Enrollment in Original Medicare is automatic for a person who is turning 65 and who is alreadygetting Social Security benefits, or who will start getting them at age 65. A Medicare card will be mailed out about three months before the 65th birthday. If a person isn't getting Social Security benefits when he or she turns age 65, the person will have to sign up for Medicare.

Automatic enrollment includes Part A and Part B. If people don't want Part B, they should follow the instructions that come with the card, and send the card back. If they keep the card, they keep Part B.

Enrollment is also automatic for a person who has been entitled to Social Security disability benefits for at least 24 months. A Medicare card is mailed out about 3 months before the 25th month of disability benefits.

A person with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) will get a Medicare card about 4 weeks after qualifying for Medicare. A person with end-stage renal disease, or ESRD, does not need to be receiving Social Security disability benefits to qualify for Medicare, and may still be working.

When should I apply?

If you are already getting Social Security retirement or disability benefits or railroad retirement checks, you will be contacted a few months before you become eligible for Medicare and given the information you need. You will be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B automatically. However, because you must pay a premium for Part B coverage, you have the option of turning it down.

If you are not already getting retirement benefits, you should contact the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). about three months before your 65th birthday to sign up for Medicare. You can sign up for Medicare even if you do not plan to retire at age 65.

Once you are enrolled in Medicare, you will receive a red, white and blue Medicare card showing whether you have Part A, Part B or both. Keep your card in a safe place so you will have it when you need it. If your card is ever lost or stolen, you can apply for a replacement card or call Social Security's toll-free number. You will also receive a Medicare & You (Publication No. CMS-10050) handbook that describes your Medicare benefits and Medicare plan choices.

Initial enrollment period for Part B

When you first become eligible for hospital insurance (Part A), you have a seven-month period (your initial enrollment period) in which to sign up for medical insurance (Part B). A delay on your part will cause a delay in coverage and result in higher premiums. If you are eligible at age 65, your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn age 65 and ends three months after that birthday. If you are eligible for Medicare based on disability or permanent kidney failure, your initial enrollment period depends on the date your disability or treatment began.

When does my enrollment in Part B become effective?

If you accept the automatic enrollment in Medicare Part B, or if you enroll in Medicare Part B during the first three months of your initial enrollment period, your medical insurance protection will start with the month you are first eligible. If you enroll during the last four months, your protection will start from one to three months after you enroll.

The following chart shows when your Medicare Part B becomes effective:

If you enroll in this month of your initial enrollment period: Then your Part B Medicare coverage starts:
Source: Social Security Medicare Site:
1 The month you become eligible for Medicare
2 The month you become eligible for Medicare
3 The month you become eligible for Medicare
4 One month after enrollment
5 Two months after enrollment
6 Three months after enrollment
7 Three months after enrollment
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Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed this information.