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Five Timely Tips for Medicare Enrollment When You Turn 65

What if you could get signed up for Medicare without doing a thing? What if you could take care of Medicare enrollment options easily, anywhere, in just a few minutes? Read on to demystify Medicare enrollment.

Medicare enrollment tip 1: first, find out if you have to do anything at all

Did you know that when you first qualify for Medicare, you might get Medicare enrollment out of the way effortlessly? If you qualify for automatic enrollment into the program, it’s done for you. Let’s find out if you can expect automatic Medicare enrollment.

The traditional Medicare program includes Medicare Part A and Part B. In most cases, you’re automatically enrolled if:

  • You’re already receiving Social Security benefits when you turn 65. You’re automatically enrolled in Medicare the month you turn 65, generally speaking.
  • You’re younger than 65, but you’ve been getting Social Security disability benefits for 24 months in a row. In most cases, you’re automatically enrolled in Medicare beginning the 25th month.
  • You’re younger than 65, and you have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). You’re automatically enrolled in Medicare the month you start getting Social Security disability benefits.

Watch for your red, white, and blue Medicare card in the mail – usually around three months before you become eligible.

Some people delay Medicare enrollment in Part B (medical insurance) – unlike with Part A (hospital insurance), most people pay a premium for Part B and might have other coverage.

Medicare enrollment tip 2: sign up for Medicare

If you don’t qualify for automatic Medicare enrollment – or if you delayed Medicare enrollment in Part B (and/or Part A) – you’ll need to enroll.

Please note that if you’re younger than 65, and have end-stage renal disease (ESRD), you might qualify for Medicare. ESRD is permanent kidney failure requiring a kidney transplant or regular dialysis. If you have ESRD, you won’t be automatically enrolled in Medicare before you’re 65. You need to sign up.

You can make your way over to your local Social Security to enroll in traditional Medicare if you want to, but you might find it more convenient to do your Medicare enrollment online. Just go to https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare to fill out an application.

Medicare enrollment tip 3: now you may be able to enhance your Medicare coverage

Once you’re completed traditional Medicare enrollment – you’re done, right?
Not so fast.

Traditional Medicare (Part A and Part B) may cover a lot of doctor and hospital visits. But it’s important to understand the limitations of Part A and Part B, and to make sure you have the best Medicare coverage possible.

That means learning about your Medicare coverage options and deciding which is best for you. It’s this learning process – not so much enrollment – that can be time-consuming. But it’s important, and it might save you money.

In a nutshell, here are some tips about Medicare coverage.

  • Medicare Part A and Part B don’t cover prescription drugs that you take at home, in most cases. If you take medications, or think you might take them down the road as you get older and your health may change, then you might want to learn about prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D.
  • You may have heard about Medicare Supplement insurance. This coverage may pay some or almost all of your Medicare Part A and Part B out-of-pocket costs. You might especially want this coverage if you have health problems and/or many doctor or hospital visits. You can buy Medicare Supplement plans from private insurance companies.
  • Another Medicare coverage option you may want to consider is Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C). Medicare Advantage plans deliver your Part A and Part B benefits, only you get them through a private, Medicare-approved health insurance company instead of directly through the government. Medicare Advantage plans usually cover prescription drugs, and many plans also include extra benefits like routine dental care. Read more about Medicare Advantage plans.

You must continue paying your Medicare Part B premium if you sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan. The plan itself might also have a premium you’ll need to pay.

Medicare enrollment tip 4: when to enroll

If your Medicare enrollment in Part A and Part B isn’t automatic, as described above, when can you enroll?

  • During your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). For most people, this 7-month period starts 3 months before your 65th birthday month; includes your birthday month; and keeps going 3 months after that.
  • During the Medicare General Enrollment Period. This runs from January 1 through March 31 every year. If you don’t sign up during your IEP (described above), you might face a late enrollment penalty.
  • During a Special Enrollment Period (SEP), if you qualify for one. If you’re covered by an employer or union group plan (either yours or your spouse’s), you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment until the group coverage ends. You generally have an 8-month SEP to enroll in Medicare without a penalty, starting the month employment ends or coverage ends (whichever happens first).

There may be other situations when you have an SEP for Medicare enrollment.

If you decide to buy a Medicare Supplement plan, or sign up for a Medicare Advantage or Medicare prescription drug plan, sign-up periods may be different. But in most cases, you can enroll in a plan during the IEP mentioned above. Follow the links above to learn more details about when you can enroll in each type of plan.

Medicare enrollment tip 5: compare your Medicare options

You can easily compare plans and see their coverage details. If you want to do any of the following, just enter your zip code in the box on this page to get started:

  • Buy a Medicare Supplement plan
  • Sign up for a stand-alone Medicare D prescription drug plan
  • Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan

Make sure you click on the appropriate tab – for example, click the Medicare Supplement tab if you want to compare Medicare Supplement plans.

Please note that Medicare Supplement plans don’t work with Medicare Advantage plans.

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eHealth's Medicare website is operated by eHealthInsurance Services, Inc., a licensed health insurance agency doing business as eHealth. The purpose of this site is the solicitation of insurance. Contact may be made by an insurance agent/producer or insurance company. eHealth and Medicare supplement insurance plans are not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. government or the federal Medicare program. We offer plans from a number of insurance companies.