At age 65, most Americans become eligible to enroll in Medicare. To be eligible you must be a citizen of the United States or a permanent legal resident of at least 5 years in a row.
Generally, you have to enroll in Medicare, however, if you are already collecting social security benefits, then you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B the month you turn 65. Otherwise, it’s time to start thinking about your Medicare options before you reach your 65th birthday because if you miss your initial enrollment period, you might be penalized.
Initial Enrollment Period
The initial enrollment period for Medicare begins three months before you turn 65, and you’ll have until 3 months after your birthday month to enroll. This gives you a 7-month window of opportunity. Signing up for Medicare during this time is very important because if you miss the deadline, you may incur a penalty. However, if you or your spouse are still working and have group health insurance from your employer, you can delay enrolling in Medicare until the employment ends or the coverage stops without incurring any late penalties.
People who are under 65 and receiving disability benefits can apply for Medicare 3 months before the 25th month that you receive disability benefits up until 3 months after the 25th month that you receive disability benefits.
Medicare Advantage plan initial enrollment period begins 3 months before your enrollment in Plan A and Plan B and ends 3 months after. Additionally, Medicare Advantage plan insureds can change their plan or go back to Original Medicare annually. This annual enrollment period begins October 15th and runs through December 7th with changes taking effect on January 1st.
General Enrollment Period
The General Enrollment Period runs from January 1 through March 31 every year when you can enroll in Medicare Part B for the first time. People who enroll during the general enrollment period (and it is after your Initial Enrollment Period), will be eligible for coverage the following July 1.
Special Enrollment Period
There are special circumstances when you can make changes to your Medicare Advantage Plan and Medicare prescription drug coverage. For example, if you move or lose other insurance coverage.
You can apply for Medicare online, by phone or visit your local Social Security Office.
If you’d like more information about Medicare and the options available to you, please call Don Heath (805) 660-3413 or Dawn Heath (805) 575-0462 for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.