Medicare card in hand

Medicare Enrollment

When enrolling in Medicare, timing can make all the difference. Here are some of the most common Medicare enrollment situations.

Turning 65?

Assuming that you are receiving Medicare the way that most people do (retiring after at least ten years of work through which you paid the Medicare tax), you can enroll in Medicare, and Medicare plans during what is known as the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). It starts three full months before the month of your 65th birthday, the entire month of your 65th birthday, and three full months after the month of your 65th birthday, for a total of seven months. During this time you can enroll in Medicare, and sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan, Medicare Supplement, or Prescription Drug Plan.

Still Working?

No problem! As long as your employer provides health insurance coverage, you can continue to work and apply for Medicare at any time while you are still working, or you will get an eight-month Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to enroll in Medicare and Select a plan when you retire.

On Disability?

If you have been declared disabled, and you are receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) payments, Social Security will automatically enroll you in Medicare after you receive disability payments for 24 months.

Late Enrollment Penalties

In most cases, Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) is free, and Medicare Part B (medical coverage) has a monthly premium. If you do not take Medicare when you are initially eligible, and you do not have creditable health insurance coverage, your Part B premium will be increased by 10% for every 12 month period that you spent unenrolled in Medicare Part B, permanently. This is known as the Medicare Part B Late Enrollment Penalty.


If you retired before your 65th birthday, you should enroll in Medicare even if your previous employer currently provides you with health insurance, or you have Medicaid. Not doing so May result in a penalty. If you are retired and receiving Social Security Retirement Income (SSRI) payments and you qualify for Medicare, Social Security will automatically enroll you and send you your Medicare card in the mail about three months before your turn 65. If you are retired and not receiving Social Security Retirement Income payments, you must contact Social Security to enroll in Medicare.

If you miss your IEP, you will not be able to enroll in Medicare until the General Enrollment Period (GEP) which is from January 1st to March 31st, and then your Medicare Part B will not start until July 1st of that year. So let’s say you turn 65 on March 15th and you miss your IEP. You will have to wait until January 1st of the following year for an opportunity to enroll in Medicare, and then your Medicare won’t start until July of that year. So you could potentially be without health insurance for 16 months. Long story short, don’t miss your IEP.

Other Ways To Get Medicare

People with End-Stage Renal Disease (kidney failure), or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease can get Medicare. It is essential that you contact Social Security for details about enrollment in these circumstances.