Important Medicare Enrollment Timelines
There are important timelines when it comes to signing up for Medicare and enrolling in Medicare insurance plans that you need to be aware of. In addition to familiarizing yourself with these timelines, we recommend reaching out to a trusted Medicare advisor at least three (3) months prior to turning 65 to determine your action steps based on your individual circumstances.
You are eligible for Medicare typically at age 65 and can sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) or, if applicable to you, a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). If you didn’t sign up for Part A and/or Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period and you are not eligible for a Special Enrollment period, you can sign up during a General Enrollment Period (GEP), but you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty and have a delay in your coverage effective date.
Initial Enrollment Period
You can sign up for Medicare beginning 3 months before your 65th birthday month, during your 65th birthday month, or 3 months after. If your birthday is the first of the month, coverage starts the month before you turn 65. Your Medicare Part B (and premium-free Part A) coverage start dates will depend on when during your initial enrollment period you sign up.
|1-3 months before your 65th birthday month*||
The 1st day of the month you turn 65
*If your birthday is on the 1st of the month, your coverage can start the 1st of the prior month
|The month you turn 65, or during the 3 months after||The next month|
Special Enrollment Period
If you didn’t sign up during your Initial Eligibility Period because you had group health care coverage from an employer with 20 or more employees, either from your own employment or a spouse’s employment, you can sign up for Part A and/or Part B during a Special Enrollment Period. Note that signing up for Part B will trigger a countdown for enrolling in Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C), Prescription Drug Plans (Part D) and/or Medicare Supplement Plans (“Medigap”) without medical underwriting, penalties and/or resulting in a gap in coverage. Because Part A is premium-free for most people, you can sign up for this anytime you first become eligible.
If you didn’t sign up for Part A, you can sign up for Part A and/or Part B without penalty during your Special Enrollment Period:
- Anytime you are covered under you or your spouse’s employer group health plan (if the employer has 20 or more employees
- You have 8-months from the date you lose employer coverage to sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B without facing penalties.
- IMPORTANT – COBRA coverage, retiree health plans, VA coverage and individual health coverage are not considered coverage based on current employment. You won’t be eligible for a Special Enrolment Period when that coverage ends.
Medicare Insurance Plan Enrollment Timelines
Medicare Insurance Plan Enrollment Timelines also have key deadlines to be aware of. Signing up for Part B will trigger your countdown for enrolling in Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C), Prescription Drug Plans (Part D) and/or Medicare Supplement Plans (“Medigap”) during your “guaranteed issue” period. Missing these enrollment deadlines may result in penalties, gaps in your healthcare coverage due to a coverage start date delay and loss of your guaranteed issue rights.
- You have 3-months from your Part A effective date to sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) and/or Prescription Drug Plan (Part D)
- You have 2-months after employer coverage ends if you were already enrolled in Part A to sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) and/or 2-months after a loss of your creditable drug coverage to enroll in a Prescription Drug Plan (Part D)
- You have 6-months after your Part B effective date or date employer coverage ends to sign up for a Medicare Supplement (“Medigap”) Plan without having to go through a medical underwriting review.
If you are under 65 and you have been receiving disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) for 24 months in a row, you will be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, when you reach the 25th month. If you have ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, you’re automatically enrolled in Medicare the month you begin receiving your Social Security disability benefits. If you’re eligible for Medicare because of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and you qualify for Part A, you can also get Part B, but you need to sign up, you will not be automatically enrolled.