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When Can I Add Part B to My Medicare?

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Original Medicare, the government-sponsored health insurance program, includes Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). Because Medicare Part B typically comes with a monthly premium, some beneficiaries delay enrollment in Part B (for example, if they have health coverage through employment), and may want to enroll in Part B later.

U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents of at least five continuous years may be eligible for Medicare coverage. You’re usually enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B automatically when you turn 65 or qualify by disability at any age and you receive Social Security Administration (SSA) or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits. For details about how you qualify for automatic enrollment, see Medicare Enrollment.

You’re not automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B in all situations. Here are a few examples of when you may qualify for Part B, but you need to sign up manually:

  • If you live in Puerto Rico, you’re typically signed up for Medicare Part A automatically when you turn 65 if you’re collecting SSA or RRB benefits. However, you need to sign up for Part B manually.
  • If you have end-stage renal disease (ESRD, a type of kidney failure), regardless of your age, you may qualify for Medicare but you generally have to apply manually.
  • If you’re not receiving SSA or RRB benefits when you turn 65, if you want to enroll in Medicare Part B, you need to sign up for it.

You can sign up for Medicare Part B during the following enrollment periods:

  • The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) for Part B, when you’re first eligible for Medicare. Your IEP typically starts 3 months before you turn age 65, includes your birth month, and lasts for 3 months after your birth month. That’s a total of 7 months.If you’re under 65 and disabled, you generally qualify for Medicare after receiving Social Security (or certain disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board) for 24 months. In this case, your 7-month IEP goes from the start of your 22nd month until the end of your 28th month of receiving disability benefits.If you sign up for Medicare Part B during your IEP, you won’t face a Part B late-enrollment penalty.
  • The General Enrollment Period (GEP), which runs from January 1 to March 31 of each year. You may enroll in Medicare Part B coverage if you are eligible. If you enroll in Part B during a GEP, it will be effective July 1 of the year in which you apply. You may have to pay a late-enrollment penalty. Your Part B premium may go up 10 percent for each 12-month period that you could have had Medicare Part B but did not sign up it.If you didn’t take Medicare Part B when you were first eligible because you or your spouse were working and had group health plan coverage through your employer or union, you can add Medicare Part B coverage during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). You can sign up during the following periods under the Part B SEP:
  • While you’re still covered by the employer or union group health plan
  • During the 8 months following the month the employer or union group health plan coverage ends, or when the employment ends — whichever is first.

To add Medicare Part B, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users 1-800-325-0778), 7AM-7PM, Monday to Friday. For additional information, contact Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users 1-877-486-2048), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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