When to enroll in Medicare

About to turn 65

If you're close to 65, and you aren't receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits, you will have to sign up for Medicare A and/or Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). This enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn 65, and ends three months after your birth month (seven months).

If you enroll during the first three months of your enrollment period, your coverage will begin sooner than if you sign up later in the enrollment period. Enroll by visiting your local Social Security office or calling Social Security at 800-772-1213.

If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period

If you miss your initial enrollment period for whatever reason, you can sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B during the General Enrollment Period that runs from January 1 through March 31 of every year. You might have to pay a late enrollment penalty for Part A and Part B if you did not sign up when you were first eligible.

Decide Between Traditional and Medicare Advantage Coverage

One of the first things you'll need to do when deciding what coverage is best for you is carefully to consider whether "Original Medicare" (Parts A and B) or Medicare Advantage (Part C) coverage better meets your healthcare needs.

When you enroll in Medicare for the first time, you'll automatically be signed up for Original Medicare if you do nothing.

Once you enroll in Medicare and decide to switch to another coverage option, like a Medicare Advantage plan, you can do so during the annual "Annual Enrollment Period" that runs from October 15 to December 7 each year. In addition, there's a Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP) that runs from January 1 through March 31 every year. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or go back to the Original Medicare during this period.

About Medicare Advantage Plans

All Medicare Advantage plans must include everything that Original Medicare covers. In addition, all Medicare Advantage Plans limit out-of-pocket costs and, most also include Part D drug coverage. Several Medicare Advantage plans often offer lower out-of-pocket costs and low copay than Original Medicare. a few Medicare Advantage plans may also charge a monthly premium and may require members to see healthcare providers in the plan's network.

Apply for Extra Help

If you have limited income and resources, you may qualify for the Federal Extra Help program, which helps people cover their Medicare Prescription Drug Plan costs. If you're already enrolled in Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, or a Medicare Savings Program, you automatically qualify for Extra Help. If you're not enrolled in those programs, you can apply by contacting the Social Security Administration.

Reevaluate Your Medicare Choices Every Fall

Every year, during the Annual Enrollment Period, check whether your current plan is still the best fit for you. If a new plan better meets your needs, you can switch to another option during the Annual Enrollment Period.  You may also switch during the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period from January 1 through March 31.  

Sign Up for Part D Even if You Don't Take Many Drugs

If you're planning to enroll in Original Medicare, consider signing up for Part D (Medicare Prescription Drug plan) right from the start – even if you don't take many medications right now. If you wait, you may end up having to pay a late enrollment penalty when enrolling in Part D at a later time.

Avoid Part B late enrollment penalty

If you didn't sign up for Part B when you're first eligible, your monthly premium may go up by 10% for each 12-month period you could've had Part B but didn't sign up. In most cases, you'll have to pay this penalty as long as you have Part B. And, the penalty increases the longer you go without Part B coverage.

Usually, you don't pay a late enrollment penalty if you meet certain conditions that allow you to sign up for Part B during a Special Enrollment Period. For example, If you have health coverage through your or your spouse's employer, you may be able to defer enrolling in Part B without paying a late enrollment penalty. You must have proof of creditable coverage.

Attend a Medicare 101 session to learn more about how Medicare works and what to do to avoid paying late enrollment penalties for the rest of your life. 

Click HERE to see the list of Medicare 101 sessions in your area and to RSVP.

Ready to sign up for a plan? Compare Your Medicare Options

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Need help navigating your Medicare options?

A licensed Medicare broker is a professional independent of any specific health plan and is appointed to represent multiple health plans. They can review your specific needs and help you compare Medicare coverage options for this enrollment year.

We can put you in touch with brokers who understand the LiveWell Senior Care Advantage program. These brokers can help you evaluate coverage options to find one that meets your needs. With your permission, we will give your contact information to a broker to contact you to discuss coverage options.

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