When the time comes for you to enroll in Medicare, you have several different options to choose from. For certain people, enrolment in Medicare is automatic whilst for others it may be dependent upon when and where they became eligible. You can enroll in Medicare Part A or Part B through a number of different means, including in person at your local Social Security office, over the telephone, or by visiting the official Social Security website.
When to Enroll
There are a few situations which you may find yourself in where enrolment in Medicare occurs automatically. These are:
Receiving Retirement Benefits:
If you are already collecting Social Security retirement benefit or Railroad Retirement Board benefits when you turn 65, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A which is hospital insurance. If you sign up for Medicare Part B (medical insurance) at the time which you sign up for retirement benefits, you’ll also be automatically enrolled in Part B when you begin to collect your retirement benefit.
Receiving Disability Benefits
If you are under the age of 65 and receiving certain disability benefits from either Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board, you will be enrolled automatically in Medicare Part A and Part B after 24 months of receiving disability benefits. There are some exceptions to this, including if you have end-stage renal disease and have had a kidney transplant or need to undergo regular kidney dialysis, in which case you will be able to apply for Medicare straight away. If you have ALS, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare at the same time that your disability benefits start.
When to Sign Up
If your current situation doesn’t mean that you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare, you will need to enroll yourself in order to gain the benefits of the program. Unless you suffer from specific disabilities (see above) you will become eligible to enroll in Medicare three months before your 65th birthday. If you enroll before your birthday, coverage can start from as early as the first day of your birthday month. You can also enroll within the three months after you turn 65.
What If I Don’t Enroll?
If you don’t enroll within the seven-month window around the period of your 65th birthday, or if you already have medical insurance through group insurance or a union at the time of your birthday, you may enroll in Medicare during the General Enrolment Period. This window is open each year from January 1 to March 31, and is designed for anyone who did not enroll in Medicare during the initial eligibility period. However, you should note that you may need to pay permanently higher premiums as a result of late enrolment, depending on your circumstances.
If you are unsure about whether or not you are eligible for Medicare or would like more information on late enrolment penalties, the best thing to do is to contact your local Social Security office for more information. You can do this in person, online, or over the telephone.