When to enroll for Medicare Part B?

Helping you understand the sign-up periods for Medicare Part B

Original Medicare consists of Medicare Part A, which is hospital insurance, and Medicare Part B, which is medical insurance. Medicare Part A is typically premium-free, but Medicare Part B requires you to pay a monthly premium. Most people become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65. You may be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B if you’re already receiving Social Security when you turn 65. If you are not automatically enrolled, you need to sign up for Medicare Part B. To know when to enroll for Medicare Part B, you need to understand these three enrollment period options.

Initial Enrollment Period

This is the first time you can sign up for Medicare. This seven-month initial enrollment period to sign up for Medicare Part B (as well as Part A) begins three months before the month you turn 65 and ends three months after your birth month. For instance, if your birthday is in May, you have from February 1 until August 31 to enroll. It’s important to note that it’s typically the best time to sign up for Part B when you’re first eligible. If you wait, you may have a gap in coverage and have to pay a late enrollment penalty in the form of higher premiums, possibly for as long as you have Part B (which could be for life).

Special Enrollment Period

If you’re covered under an employer-provided plan when you turn 65, then usually you don’t need to enroll in Medicare during the initial enrollment period. But you will need to enroll in Medicare within eight months of the date you no longer have your group health plan coverage in order to avoid penalties. This eight-month period following the end of your employer-provided coverage is known as the special enrollment period.

General Enrollment Period

This period runs from January 1 to March 31 of each year. It applies to those who didn’t sign up when they were first eligible or who are not eligible for a special enrollment period. If you enroll in Medicare Part B during the general enrollment period, it will take effect July 1 of that year. But remember, signing up during this period may mean a late-enrollment penalty and a higher premium.

Learn more about when to enroll for Medicare.