One of the most confusing topics of Medicare are the many enrollment periods. The first enrollment period beneficiaries will encounter is the IEP or the Medicare Initial Enrollment Period. Technically, there are three plans to consider during the Initial Enrollment Period.
- Original Medicare, Part A and Part B
- Part D (Prescription Plan)
- Medicare Advantage Plan or a Medigap (Supplement) Plan
Medicare Initial Enrollment Period
The Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare begins three months prior to the month of your 65th birthday, the month of your birthday, and continues for 3 months after your birthday. Totaling 7 months in which Medicare Beneficiaries should sign up for Medicare Part A and/or B during this Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) unless you qualify for automatic enrollment.
When Should I Enroll Into Medicare
If you are not already receiving social security benefits prior to turning 65 you will have to sign up for Medicare during this time, however, if you do not plan on retiring and receiving your Medicare benefits upon turning 65. You can always sign up to receive your retirement through social security at another time.
To qualify for Medicare Part A at no cost, you or your spouse must have worked for at least forty quarters (10 years). If you did not work a minimum of forty quarters you can still apply and receive Medicare Parts A and/or B, but the cost will vary. The premium for Part A and B is calculated based on how long you worked and paid Medicare taxes. Medicare Part B premium that is paid monthly.
If you were to miss your Initial Enrollment Period for some reason, you can still enroll in Medicare Part A and B during the General Enrollment Period (GEP). The General Enrollment Period begins on January 1st and ends on March 31st.
Keep in mind, if you enroll during the GEP your Medicare will not start until July 1st. If you did not maintain creditable coverage, you will be subject to an endless penalty.
If you’re 65 or older and still working, you can find information regarding employer coverage and Medicare here.
How Do I Qualify for Automatic Enrollment
Your initial enrollment into Medicare Part A and/or B, occurs automatically if you are turning 65 and already receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Benefits (RRB), or will start collecting retirement at age 65. When you apply for retirement benefits, you should also apply for your Medicare B.
Medicare Part A enrollment occurs automatically if you are eligible for Social Security retirement. You should receive your Medicare card about 3 months prior to your 65th birthday.
If you have been entitled to certain Social Security and Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) disability for at least 24 months, you could qualify for Medicare Benefits prior to attaining age 65. A Medicare card is mailed out about three months before the 25th month of disability benefits.
If a beneficiary has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), that individual will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B starting in the month that their disability benefits begin.
Individuals with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), do not need to be receiving Social Security disability benefits to qualify for Medicare and can still be working. If you have ESRD and require kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant, you can enroll in Original Medicare at any time before turning 65.
Enrolling in Original Medicare
There are a few ways to enroll in Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, through Social Security:
- By visiting SSA
- By calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) Monday through Friday, from 7am to 7pm
- By visiting your local Social Security office
If you work at a railroad, contact the Railroad Retirement Board to enroll in Medicare Part A and/or B. You can call the RRB at 1-800-772-5772, Monday through Friday, 9am to 3:30pm.
Once you enroll in Medicare, you will receive a red, white, and blue Medicare card. It will show your Part A and/or Part B dates and your Medicare Number. You should keep this card in a safe place so you always know where it is and have access to it when needed.
If you ever lose your card, or it gets stolen, you can apply for a new replacement card online. Or call Social Security’s toll free number, 1-800-772-1213 Monday through Friday, from 7am to 7pm.
When Does You Medicare Coverage Begin
Your Medicare coverage will begin the first of the month that you are eligible (at age 65), if you are already receiving retirement benefits before turning 65. Sign up during the General Enrollment Period your coverage will begin on July 1st.
If you are receiving your benefits for disability the Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board will determine your effective dates for Medicare Part A and B.
Take advantage of your Initial Enrollment Period and enroll one to three months before you turn 65 years old, your Medicare will begin the month you turn 65. If you enroll in the month of your 65th birthday your Medicare will start one month after your 65th birthday.
If you wait until the month after your 65th birthday, your Medicare will not start until 2 months after you enroll into Medicare. Waiting until 2 to 3 months, the end of your IEP, will delay your Medicare start dates three months until after you enroll into Medicare.
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