Understanding Medicare Enrollment

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Step 1: Sign Up Through Social Security

If you are already receiving benefits from Social Security then there is no further sign up required of you. You will receive your Medicare coverage automatically. 3 months prior to your 65th birthday, your Medicare card will come in the mail.

If you are not already receiving benefits from Social Security then your first step will be to sign up for Medicare through Social Security. You can do so online at the Social Security website here.

The online process usually takes less than 10 minutes. You can sign up for both Part A and Part B with your online application. Once you submit your electronic application, Social Security will review and process your application. When this is complete, you will receive your Medicare card in the mail. 

Step 2: Choose Your Medicare Coverage 

The coverage you are signing up for through Social Security is Original Medicare. This consists of both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B.

You may also choose to add additional coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C), a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, or a Medigap (supplement) plan. These plans offer additional help covering costs for services and care not covered by Original Medicare.   

When Should I Enroll in Medicare?

You should enroll in Medicare 3 months before you turn 65.

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Your initial enrollment period begins in the three months prior to your 65th birthday. It includes your birthday month then extends for the three months after it. At this time, you can enroll in Original Medicare Parts A and B. At the very least, you should enroll in Part A, as you are not required to pay any monthly premiums.

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Initial Enrollment Period:

Initial Enrollment is your first opportunity to enroll in Medicare. Your Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare is a 7-month period that surrounds the month of your 65th birthday. It includes the three months prior to your birthday month, your birthday month, and the three months after your birthday month. 

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If you enroll prior to your birthday month, your coverage will begin on the 1st of your birthday month. If you enroll in your birthday month or in the three months following it, coverage will begin the 1st of the following month.

Open Enrollment Period:

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period runs from October 15 – December 7. During this period, any Medicare recipient can enroll in or change their Medicare plan. 

Your coverage begins January 1st of the following year.

General Enrollment Period:

The Medicare General Enrollment Period runs from January 1 – March 31. If you did not enroll during your initial enrollment period or during a special enrollment period, this is a chance to enroll.

Your coverage begins July 1st of the year you enroll.

Medicare Supplement Enrollment Period:

The Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period is the 6-month period that begins the month of your 65th birthday and extends for 5 months after. This is the best time to purchase supplement insurance as you have a guaranteed right to purchase.

Your coverage begins the 1st of the following month.

Medicare Enrollment Late Penalties

Part A Late Penalty: 

If you don’t qualify for premium-free Part A coverage and you didn’t purchase it when first eligible (Initial Enrollment Period), then you will face a late penalty when you enroll.

Your Part A monthly premium will go up by 10%. This penalty applies for double the amount of years that you were eligible to enroll but did not.

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Part B Late Penalty: 

If you didn’t sign up for Part B when first eligible (Initial Enrollment Period), you will face a late enrollment penalty. This late penalty applies to your premium for as long as you have Part B coverage.

For each full 12-month period that you were eligible to enroll but did not, your premium amount will increase by 10%.

Part D Late Penalty: 

If your Initial Enrollment Period has ended and you have gone without Part D coverage, Part C coverage, or creditable prescription drug coverage for a continuous period of 63 days then you may be assessed a late penalty to your Part D monthly premium.

The amount of the penalty is determined by how long you went without prescription drug coverage. The late penalty is 1% of the national base beneficiary premium ($32.74) times the number of full months you went without creditable drug coverage.

Medicare Enrollment Options

To enroll in Medicare, you must sign up through Social Security. There are three options for signing up:

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  1. Sign up online at the Social Security website.

  2. Phone call: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778)

  3. Local Office Visit: Find your local office using the Social Security Office Locator.

For an in-depth look at Medicare Enrollment, check out our

Medicare Enrollment Comprehensive Guide for 2020