If you are turning 65 or qualify for Medicare under 65 due to certain disabilities, learning how to sign up is the first step in getting access to coverage that can provide the care and protection you need. If you are nearing your birthday and want to understand how to sign up for Medicare, you may be pleased to learn that you’ll have a seven-month Initial Enrollment Period. You can sign up for Medicare starting three months before your 65th birthday, during your birthday month and three months following your birthday month.
Signing up for the different parts of Medicare
During your Initial Enrollment Period, you will have some decisions to make. Let’s discuss the different parts of Medicare and how they may affect your enrollment:
- Medicare Part A – Inpatient Coverage
- Medicare Part B – Outpatient Coverage
- Medicare Part C – Medicare Advantage
- Medicare Part D – Prescription Drug Coverage
For many people, enrollment in Medicare Part A is automatic and premium-free upon being
able to sign up for Medicare. Most people get premium-free Part A due to contributions paid through payroll deductions that occurred during your working years. If you don’t qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A, you may be able to purchase it.
During your Initial Enrollment Period, you can sign up for Parts A, B, C, and/or D. Both Medicare Part B and Part D are optional coverage, but most people enroll when they first qualify to avoid paying late enrollment fees when they decide to sign up later on. If you choose to enroll in Medicare Part B and/or Part D, you will likely pay a monthly premium for your coverage.
Part C, or Medicare Advantage plans, are an alternative to Original Medicare. Once you’re enrolled in Parts A and B, you can choose to get your coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan offered by a private insurance company.
When to sign up for a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan
If you choose to get your benefits through Original Medicare, you have the option of purchasing a Medigap plan. Once you turn 65 and have enrolled in Part B, you will have a 6-month Medigap Initial Enrollment Period. Medicare Supplement, also known as Medigap, policies help cover some of the costs Original Medicare does not. They are sold by private insurance companies, but are regulated by the federal government. During your 6-month enrollment period, you have a guaranteed issue right to buy any Medigap plan sold in your state regardless of any pre-existing conditions. If you wait until this period is over, you will likely be subject to medical underwriting and can be charged more or even refused coverage.
Please note: Medigap is only available for individuals with Original Medicare. You cannot purchase a Medigap plan if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.
When can I sign up for a Part C (Medicare Advantage) Plan?
When you sign up for Part A and Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period, you can choose to get your benefits through Original Medicare or through a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan. MA plans are offered by private insurance companies that contract with Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans are an alternative to Original Medicare, but plans are required to provide at least the same benefits as Part A and Part B. Most MA plans include additional benefits, such as vision and dental care, hearing exams, prescription drug coverage, and/or gym memberships, among others.
Signing Up for Medicare under the age of 65
Some people with disabilities qualify for Medicare prior to reaching age 65. If you’ve been diagnosed with certain diseases, such as ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease) or ALS, you may qualify for Medicare at any age. If you’ve been getting disability benefits from the Social Security Administration or Railroad Retirement Board for 24 months, you may also be eligible for Medicare. In these cases, you can sign up for Medicare upon receiving your determination.