Your Initial Medicare Enrollment Period

medicare options

You’ve worked hard for years to earn your Medicare coverage, but there is a limited time to sign up during your Initial Medicare Enrollment Period. You must be 65 years old and a U.S. citizen or legal resident (for 5 or more years). If you’re qualifying for the first time, be sure to spend some time understanding your options so you get the coverage you need from the start. Once you know what you want out of Medicare, you can spend more time celebrating this milestone birthday!

What is an Initial Medicare Enrollment Period?
Your Initial Medicare Enrollment Period occurs when you are eligible to sign up for Medicare for the first time. This seven-month period includes the three months before your 65th birthday, the month that you turn 65, and the three months after your 65th birthday month. If you are not turning 65, there are other special cases when you may be eligible for Medicare, including certain disabilities and health conditions.

Once you are sure that you are eligible, the next step is researching your options. There are multiple Medicare parts that provide specific benefits. Parts A and B are provided through the federal government and are considered Original Medicare. Other options include Medicare Advantage (Part C), Prescription Drug (Part D) and Medicare Supplement plans that are available through private insurance companies. Prescription Drug Plans and Medicare Supplement plans can be added to your Original Medicare at any time without a special enrollment period.

Automatic or Manual Enrollment
During your initial Medicare Enrollment Period, you’ll either be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and B, or you may need to manually sign up. If you’re eligible for automatic enrollment, you don’t have to apply, and your Medicare card will be mailed to you 3 months before your 65th birthday. For most people who qualify for automatic enrollment, coverage will kick in on the first day of your 65th birthday month.

You may qualify for automatic Medicare enrollment if:

> You’re already getting social security benefits
> You’re already getting railroad retirement benefits
> You’re going to start collecting retirement at age 65
> You qualify for Medicare because of a specified disability

If none of these situations apply, you will need to manually enroll in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period. You will be given the option to enroll in several different ways – sign up online, by phone or in person. The day when your coverage begins depends on when you enrolled.

If you sign up… Then your coverage will begin…
During the 3 months before the month you turn 65 The first day of the month you turn 65
The month you turn 65 One month after you turn 65
One month after you turn 65 Two months after you enroll
Two months after you turn 65 Three months after you enroll
Three months after you turn 65 Three months after you enroll

Initial Enrollment Period and Beyond
This can seem like a lot of information at one time. But, once you get started, you may realize it was easier than you thought. Your Initial Enrollment Period is the first step toward Medicare coverage.

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