Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
Welcome to the Medicare Enrollment and Eligibility Resource Center, your one-stop shop for Medicare information and planning for when you turn 65. Here you'll find the tools and resources you need to help you feel confident about signing up for Medicare for the first time, when you qualify due to age. If you’re qualifying for Medicare due to disability, please click here for more information.
The Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
Around your 65th birthday (or 25th disability check), you'll have a 7-month window of time when you can sign up for Medicare. It's called your Initial Enrollment Period – or IEP for short. Your IEP includes your 65th birthday month, the 3 months before and the 3 months after.
Example: You turn 65 on June 7. Your IEP is March 1 – September 30.
If, however, your birthday is on the 1st of the month, then your IEP is determined as though you were born the month before.
Example: You turn 65 on June 1. Your IEP is February 1 – August 31.
Am I automatically enrolled in Medicare at 65?
If you currently receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, you may be automatically enrolled. You'll receive your Medicare card in the mail before your 65th birthday. You'll still have an IEP, during which you may make Medicare coverage decisions.
If you are not currently receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits when you turn 65, you'll have to sign up for Medicare yourself. Medicare may not notify you about your eligibility, so be sure to get your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) dates and put them in your calendar.
Get Your Comprehensive Medicare Guide
You'll get timely email reminders and information to help you navigate your Initial Enrollment Period as smoothly as possible.
Do I need Medicare if working past 65?
If you are planning to continue working past age 65, you may be able to delay enrolling in Medicare. If you have credible health coverage from your employer or are covered under a spouse's employer plan, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, and be able to delay enrolling without penalty.
In some situations, though, you may still be required to take full Medicare benefits at age 65 even if you plan to keep working. One such example is when an employer has fewer than 20 employees.
Find out when you can enroll in Medicare
For most people, the first time you can enroll in Medicare is around your 65th birthday. You can also qualify to enroll in Medicare with a qualifying disability --- after you’ve received disability benefits for 24 months), or a qualifying medical condition --- such as Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) or end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
You can use this tool to find your Medicare eligibility dates for age, disability or medical condition.
What happens if I miss my Initial Enrollment Period?
If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period, Medicare offers a General Enrollment Period (GEP) for those who did not sign up around their 65th birthday. You could face late enrollment penalties if you wait too long to sign up, and don't qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Learn more about missing your Initial Enrollment Period here.
Medicare General Enrollment Period
The GEP is January 1 – March 31 every year. Here's what you need to know:
- You can enroll in Part A, Part B or both during the time
- Coverage begins on July 1 of the same year
- You may have to pay a late enrollment penalty
- You may be eligible to enroll in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) or a prescription drug (Part D) plan April 1 – June 30 of the same year
How do I know what Medicare coverage I need?
You'll have decisions to make during your IEP, even if you're automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B. What Medicare coverage you need to enroll in is based on your personal situation. Original Medicare doesn't cover everything, and Medicare coverage offered by private insurers—such as a Medicare Advantage or a Part D plan—could help fill in the gaps.
Consider your health and lifestyle needs, your employment status, health conditions, prescription drug use and if you need dental or vision coverage.
You need prescription drugs
If you use prescription drugs, you will either need to get a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan or a Medicare Advantage plan that includes drug coverage. Medicare Part A will only cover drugs you use in the hospital as an in-patient. Part D also covers some vaccines, such as for shingles and the flu.
You want dental, vision & other health benefits
Dental, vision, hearing and fitness benefits are not covered by Medicare Parts A, B and D. Only Medicare Advantage plans offer these benefits and others, such as transportation for medical appointments and virtual doctor visits.
You want help with Medicare costs
Medicare costs can add up. If you have Medicare Parts A & B, you can add a Medigap plan to help with out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and coinsurance. You can also consider a Medicare Advantage plan that includes an out-of-pocket maximum, which can offer financial protection.
You are also eligible for Medicaid
There are Medicare plans specifically designed for people who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare. Dual Special Needs Plans are a special kind of Medicare Advantage Plan that combine Parts A, B and D Medicaid, and extra benefits such as dental and vision.
Your Medicare coverage choices need to fit your health needs, lifestyle and budget. You will have a chance to review your coverage, and make changes each year during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, Oct. 15 – Dec. 7.
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