The first step in understanding the Medicare Maze is to understand when you can, and must sign up for Medicare.
Here is a summary of the 3 enrollment periods.
Medicare Enrollment Periods
The first step in understanding your Medicare options, is to know specifically when you can and must enroll in Medicare.
The age for Medicare eligibility is 65. If you are a United States Citizen or a legal resident who has lived in the U.S. for 5 consecutive years, you are eligible. In addition certain people who are collecting Social Security Disability are also eligible for Medicare.
There are 3 Medicare Enrollment Periods:
- Initial Enrollment Period
- Special Enrollment Period
- General Enrollment Period
The Initial Enrollment Period
The Initial Enrollment Period is for people who reach Age 65 and are NOT covered by an Employer Group Health Plan that employs 20 or more employees as either an employee or a spouse.
The Initial Enrollment Period begins 3 months prior to the month you turn age 65 and continues 3 months after the month you turn age 65. It’s recommended you enroll during the 3 months prior to your birthday month so your Medicare coverage begins the 1st of the month you turn 65.
If you currently have COBRA coverage or Retiree Health coverage and are approaching age 65, you MUST ENROLL in Medicare during the Initial Enrollment Period for Part A & B.
The Special Enrollment Period
The Special Enrollment Period is for people who upon reaching Age 65 ARE covered by an Employer Group Health Plan that does employ 20 or more employees as either an employee or a spouse.
The best time to enroll during the Special Enrollment Period is approximately 90 days prior to your Group Health Benefits terminating. Your Medicare benefits should go into effect the day after your Group Health Benefits stop.
*For you own peace of mind, it is recommended to call Social Security and explain your situation and have them tell you that you are not required to enroll during the Initial Enrollment Period and will not be penalized. Please record the date, time of your call and with whom you talked.
The General Enrollment Period
The General Enrollment Period runs annually between January 1st and March 31st. Your coverage will not begin until July 1st.
This enrollment period applies if both of the following apply:
- You didn’t sign up when you were first eligible
- You aren’t eligible for the Special Enrollment Period
This is the only time you can enroll in Medicare if you miss your Initial or Special Enrollment Periods.