Medicare Initial Enrollment Period

Q: I reach age 65 several months before I plan to retire. Can I wait to sign up for Medicare and Social Security retirement at the same time?  

A: Enroll in Medicare before the month you reach age 65. Based on your question, I am assuming you will be enrolling in both Medicare Part A (Hospital) and Part B (Medical).  

People already getting Social Security benefits based on age or disability  or Railroad Retirement checks are enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B automatically. Since there is a monthly premium for Part B coverage, there is an option of turning it down.  

Automatic enrollment does not apply to you because you do not receive Social Security payments. Since you are not already getting retirement benefits, you should complete the online Medicare application or contact Social Security about three months before your 65th birthday to sign up for Medicare. Sign up for Medicare even if you do not plan to start your Social Security by age 65. 

Based on a current employment medical insurance coverage exception, not everyone enrolls in Medicare Part B when first eligible. Discuss this with your employer to see if this exception applies to you for the several months between reaching age 65 and your retirement. For purposes of this post, I am assuming that you will be enrolling in both Medicare Part A (Hospital) and Part B (Medical) at the same time. 

People have an initial enrollment period (IEP) when first eligible for Medicare Part B. The IEP is seven months long, starting before your first eligibility, and extending past it. If eligible at age 65, the initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn age 65 and ends three months after that birthday. If eligible for Medicare based on disability or permanent kidney failure, the IEP depends on the date your disability or treatment began. 

Concentrating on Medicare at age 65, it is important to enroll in Part B before the month you reach age 65, despite the length of the initial enrollment period. If people already receiving Social Security benefits accept the automatic enrollment in Medicare Part B, or if you enroll in Medicare Part B during the first three months of your initial enrollment period – the three months before you turn age 65 – Part B protection will start with the month you reach age 65. 

However, if you enroll during the last four months of the IEP, those including the month you turn age 65 and ending three months after that birthday, your Medicare Part coverage starts from one to three months after the month you reach age 65. Why would you do this?

Enroll in Medicare before the month you reach age 65.  Again, based on your question, for this post I am assuming that exceptions do not apply and that you will be enrolling in both Medicare Part A (Hospital) and Part B (Medical). 

See Medicare (SSA Publication 05-10043) for more information.

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