Many people become eligible for Medicare when turning age 65. If you delay your Medicare enrollment and do not have other creditable coverage, it can result in financial penalties and/or delays in your Medicare coverage.
The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) for people turning 65 is a seven-month period beginning three months before the month you turn 65, the month you turn 65, and three months after the month you turn 65. If you are already receiving Railroad Retirement Board or Social Security Retirement Benefits, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A & B and it will start on the first day of the month you turn 65.
You will receive a package in the mail approximately three months before turning 65 containing your new Medicare Card and a letter that gives a brief overview of how Medicare works and the cost of your monthly Part B premium, which will be deducted automatically from your Railroad Retirement or Social Security check. You will also have the option of turning down Part B if you have other creditable coverage.
Please note that COBRA coverage does not count as creditable coverage for Medicare purposes. Neither does military retiree coverage or VA benefits. (You can read my article about Veterans and Medicare here) Just because you have other health insurance doesn’t mean its creditable coverage.
Note: If you’re not already receiving Railroad Retirement or Social Security benefits at age 65, you will not be notified when it’s time for you to enroll in Medicare. If you do not have other creditable coverage and you miss your enrollment deadline and then are hit with late penalties, you cannot appeal on the basis that you didn’t know. Ignorance of the law is not considered a defense.
Three Ways to Sign Up for Medicare
So what do you need to do if you are not receiving Railroad Retirement or Social Security benefits when you turn 65? There are three ways to sign up for Medicare when turning 65.
You can sign up by contacting your local or Social Security office or the Railroad Retirement Board if you worked for the railroad and schedule an appointment.
You may also sign up for Medicare online at:
Note: click on the blue box that says “Apply for Medicare Only”.
Alternatively, you can call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 and sign up over the phone.
Its best to start this process at least three months in advance of turning 65, as scheduling an appointment with your local Social Security Office may take one or even two months.
If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) you may sign up during the General Enrollment Period (GEP), which runs from January 1 to March 31. Your coverage will begin on July 1. In addition, you may pay a Part B late enrollment penalty (10% per 12-month period) that lasts as long as you have Medicare coverage.
Medicare has many rules, timelines, and penalties, and there are different rules that apply to different situations. That’s why it is important to consult a licensed independent insurance agent. I specialize in Medicare products and represent all Medicare Supplement plan types.
Call or email today to start plotting your course through the Medicare maze. I make the complex simple by shopping the plans and rates for you there is never a fee and you are under no obligation to use my services.
Medicare Explained in Plain English