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Eligibility for Medicare and enrollment

While most people can sign up for Medicare when they turn 65, it’s important to understand the requirements and plan ahead, so you’ll know when and how to enroll.


If you continue working past age 65 and have health insurance through your employer, Medicare eligibility begins when you retire.

First eligible
When you’re first eligible for Medicare, you have a seven-month initial enrollment period to sign up for Part A and/or Part B (Original Medicare).

If you’re eligible when you turn 65, you can sign up during the seven-month period that begins three months before the month of your 65th birthday.

If you’re covered under an employer group health plan when you’re first eligible for Medicare, you have an eight-month special enrollment period that starts the month after the employment ends or the employer group health plan ends, whichever happens first.

It’s best to enroll in Medicare when you’re first eligible, even if you aren’t going to collect Social Security benefits. If you sign up later, you may have to pay a higher Part B premium for late enrollment. It’s 10 percent for every 12 months you could have been enrolled but weren’t.

After first eligibility

If you don’t sign up for Part A or Part B when you’re first eligible, you can sign up during the General Enrollment Period:

  • Jan. 1 - March 31 each year
  • Your Original Medicare coverage will start July 1


Enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan

You can sign up for Medicare Advantage (parts C and D) as soon as you become eligible for Medicare, or during Medicare’s annual enrollment period, Oct. 15 - Dec. 7. Other opportunities to enroll include:

  • Initial enrollment period: For most Medicare beneficiaries, the initial enrollment period begins three months before the month you turn 65, and ends three months after the month you turn 65. If you wait past your initial enrollment period to enroll in a plan, you may have fewer options and higher costs.
  • Annual enrollment period: The annual enrollment period takes place each year from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, change prescription drug plans, or return to original Medicare. Coverage for enrollment changes takes effect Jan. 1.
  • Special enrollment period: Some special circumstances, such as moving or having a change in your health or income, may allow you to enroll in a prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan any time during the year. For more information, call us at 800-426-9313 (TTY: 711).
  • Open enrollment period: From Jan. 1 to March 31, you can make a one-time plan selection change. Options include selecting a new Medicare Advantage plan, changing to a Medicare Supplement plan, or disenrolling from a Medicare Advantage plan and returning to Original Medicare. Depending on the change you make, you could be eligible to enroll in a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP). It is important to note that you will not be able to make any further changes until the next Annual Election Period unless you qualify for a Special Election Period during the year.

When you join a Medicare prescription drug plan, you’ll have to provide your Medicare number and the date your Part A and/or Part B coverage started. You can find this information on your Medicare card.

Y0032_18270_1_M File and Use 10/1/18

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