Having adequate health insurance coverage is an important consideration for people who are close to retirement age. As people grow older, health care expenses generally increase, and this may cause concern if they don’t have enough insurance.

Today in the United States, most people begin receiving Medicare coverage as soon as they reach the age of 65, but Medicare insurance benefits are also available for people under 65 with certain disabilities, or for people over 65 whose group insurance is coming to an end due to retirement.

If your 65th birthday or retirement is just around the corner, you need all the information about when to enroll in Medicare and when your coverage will kick in. You don’t want to miss out on any of Medicare’s valuable benefits.

Are You Eligible for Medicare?

You are eligible for Medicare health insurance benefits when you turn 65, or if you have been receiving Social Security Disability benefits for a 24-month period. If you are getting Social Security due to retirement or disability at the time you become eligible for Medicare, the Social Securing Administration automatically enrolls you in Original Medicare Parts A and B.

If you aren’t already receiving Social Security benefits when you turn Medicare eligible, you have to enroll through the Social Security Administration either online, over the phone, or at a local Social Security office.

People who have Lou Gehrig’s disease or end-stage renal disease (ESRD), are not required to have been receiving Social Security Disability benefits for 24 months before becoming Medicare eligible.

If you are 65 years of age or older and still working, you may have group insurance provided by your employer and wish to delay getting Medicare benefits until your retirement. If this is the case, you are obligated to prove that you have had credible coverage through employment when you eventually sign up for Medicare coverage benefits.

When Does Medicare Start?

When your Medicare insurance coverage begins depends on when you sign up for it.
The earlier you sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period, the faster you will receive your Medicare coverage.

The Initial Enrollment Period includes a total of seven months. It begins three months prior to the month of your 65th birthday, includes your entire birth month, and extends to three months after your birth month.

If you enroll for Medicare during the three-month period prior to your birth month, your Medicare benefits begin on the first day of your birth month unless your birthday falls on the first of the month. In that case your coverage begins on the first day of the month prior to your birth month.

If you enroll in Medicare sometime during the month of your 65th birthday, your coverage begins one month after you sign up. If you enroll one month after your 65th birth month, your coverage begins two months after you sign up. If you enroll two or three months after your 65th birth month, your coverage starts three months later.

If you are 65 years of age or older and have group coverage at work, you have two options for enrollment. You can either sign up while you are still working, or you can sign up for a period of eight months following retirement or loss of coverage. This is called the Part B Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

If you don’t sign up during the Initial Enrollment Period, or Special Enrollment Period, you can enroll during the Open Enrollment Period that begins on January 1st and ends on March 31st of every year. If you enroll during OEP, then your coverage begins on July 1st of the year you enroll.

If you are under 65 with certain disabilities and have been receiving Social Security for 24 months, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare and your benefits begin immediately. When you become eligible to receive Medicare insurance coverage, it is to your advantage to enroll as soon as possible and get your Medicare health insurance coverage faster.

Related articles:

What is Medicare?

Medicare.org Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)