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How Do I Sign up For Medicare if I am Turning 65?

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If your 65th birthday is just around the corner, you’re probably wondering, “How do I sign up for Medicare?” Fortunately, it’s easy to learn how to enroll in Medicare and any other coverages you want, such as Part D prescription drug coverage or a Medicare Supplement Plan. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

When do I sign up for Medicare?

You can sign up for Medicare at any time during the seven-month period that begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes your birthday month, and extends three months past the month you turn 65. This is your Initial Enrollment Period, and you can sign up for Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D coverage for prescription drugs during this time.

There’s one thing to keep in mind, however, before you answer the “when do I sign up for Medicare” question: When will your coverage begin? If you sign up before you turn 65, your coverage usually begins on the first day of your birthday month. If you wait until after your birthday, there may be a lag of up to three months before your coverage begins, depending on when you enroll. If your existing health coverage ends on your 65th birthday, be sure you sign up early, so you don’t go without health insurance.

The timing for signing up for Medicare Supplement Plans is just a bit different. You have guaranteed issue rights to buy any Medicare Supplement Plan sold in your state during the six-month period beginning the month you are both age 65 or older and enrolled in Part B. You can still apply for a Medicare Supplement Plan after that time, but you may have to pass medical underwriting before you can buy a plan. Depending on your health status, you may not be able to buy the plan you want, or your premiums could be much higher if you have health problems.

How do I sign up for Medicare?

For many people, Medicare enrollment is automatic. If you’re getting Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare when you turn 65. Just watch for your red, white, and blue Medicare card to arrive in the mail around three months before your birthday; your coverage begins the first day of the month of your 65th birthday. If you turn 65 on the first of the month, your coverage begins the month before your birthday.

If you’re not automatically enrolled, or you want to know how to enroll in Medicare Advantage instead of Part A and Part B, the steps are a bit different. To manually enroll in Original Medicare, visit the Social Security website or your local Social Security Administration office.

Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. If you decide you want Medicare Advantage, you need to sign up with the insurance company offering the plan you choose or buy your plan through a health insurance broker like eHealth.

If you are buying a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan, you’ll also apply directly with the private insurance company selling the plan you want or go through a health insurance broker. Part D coverage for prescription drugs is technically optional. However you must have “creditable” prescription drug coverage through another source, or you may pay a late enrollment penalty with your monthly premium if go without coverage for more than 63 consecutive days after your initial enrollment period.

How do I sign up for Medicare if I’m still working when I turn 65?

You may want to delay enrollment in Part B if you’re still working and have health insurance through your employer or other organization when you turn 65. Most people enroll in premium-free Part A when they turn 65, but some choose to postpone Part B enrollment if they have other coverage. You should check with your plan benefits administrator before you turn 65 to see if your employer coverage changes when you become eligible for Medicare.

If you have the option to choose between Medicare and your employer plan, compare your monthly premiums and benefits before you turn 65 so you know which option makes the best financial sense for you.

If you would like some help enrolling in Medicare, give one of licensed agents a call. You can also search for plans you are eligible for by typing your zip code into the form on this page and clicking “Browse Plans.”

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