How do I get Medicare coverage?

It’s easier than you think. If you already receive Social Security benefits, you may get Original Medicare (Parts A and B) automatically. If not, you can sign up for it through the Social Security Administration (see details below).

When should I sign up?

If you’re turning 65, you can sign up for Original Medicare starting three months before your 65th birthday.

If you wait, you could have a gap in your healthcare coverage, and you may have to pay a penalty for enrolling late.

What do I need to know if I am...

New to Medicare?

You will have 7 months to sign up for the plan(s) you want. This Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) starts three months before the month you turn 65, continues through your birthday month, then ends three months after that.

So, if your birthday is April 15, you can enroll from January 1 to July 31. It’s best to enroll no later than the end of your birthday month to avoid delays in your health coverage.

Signing up late?

If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period and don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (see below), you can sign up during a General Enrollment Period (GEP), but you may pay penalties.

During a GEP, you can enroll in Original Medicare from January through March of every year and your Medicare coverage will begin July 1. You can also select a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) or Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D) to begin July 1.

Already covered through work?

If you have health coverage through your current employer or your spouse’s current employer, you may be able to delay getting Original Medicare, then sign up later during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP)―without a penalty. In general, it's best to check with your employer about your options before your 65th birthday.

  • Medicare QuickStart

    See if (and when) you can get Medicare coverage by answering a few quick questions.

  • Are you a U.S. citizen?

  • Have you lived in the U.S. as a legal resident for the past five years?

  • What is your date of birth?

  • Do you receive Social Security Disability Benefits?

  • You can’t get Medicare coverage yet.

    We’re glad you’re thinking about it already. You can sign up three months before your 65th birthday.

    Sign up for Healthfirst reminders

    We would be glad to help you get another type of health plan now.

    Find a health plan

  • You do not currently qualify for Medicare due to the program’s requirements. We would be glad to help you get another type of health plan.

    Find a health plan
  • Good news! You can get Medicare coverage.

    While you did not sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period, you can still sign up during the General Enrollment Period from January through March.

    • Jan
    • Feb
    • Mar
    • Jul
    Enroll in Original Medicare
    Coverage starts July 1

    If you have health coverage through work (or qualify for the Medicare Savings Program), you may be able to sign up for Medicare during a Special Enrollment Period outside of the GEP.

    Keep reading to learn how to sign up.

  • Good news! You can get Medicare coverage.

    3 months Before
    Birthday Month*
    3 months After

    * Since your birthday is July 1st, Medicare considers June your birthday month.

    The time to sign up is now, before your Initial Enrollment Period ends. We can send you helpful Healthfirst reminders if you think you might forget.

    * Since your birthday is July 1st, Medicare considers June your birthday month.

    Sign up for Healthfirst reminders
  • Good news! You can get Medicare coverage soon.

    3 months Before
    Birthday Month*
    3 months After

    * Since your birthday is July 1st, Medicare considers June your birthday month.

    Your Initial Enrollment Period is just around the corner. Be sure to sign up when it begins.

    Keep reading to learn how to sign up.

    * Since your birthday is July 1st, Medicare considers June your birthday month.

    Sign up for Healthfirst reminders
  • Good news! You can get Medicare coverage.

    If you’ve been receiving disability benefits for at least two years, you’ll get Medicare automatically. You have the option to choose a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) or a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D).

    Keep reading to learn how to sign up.

How do I sign up for Original Medicare?

Contact Social Security:

Get your sign-up checklist. Download our free Healthfirst Medicare guide to see what items you’ll need to verify your date of birth, address, income, and more.

Keep in mind, you must sign up for Original Medicare before you can get a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C), Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D), or Medigap policy.

What is the penalty for enrolling late?

Your monthly premium for Part B (Medical Insurance) will go up―by 10% for each year you wait to enroll. This penalty lasts for as long as you have Medicare.

There may also be penalties for enrolling late in a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D). To avoid these penalties, don’t wait to sign up for Part D or a Medicare Advantage plan with Part D coverage.

My situation is a little different. What happens if...

I have Medicaid? You will need to get either Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. When you qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare, you are considered “dual eligible” and will receive benefits from both.

In addition, you may pay a low (or no) cost for your Medicare coverage, and most of your healthcare costs will likely be covered.

I have a disability? You may be able to get Medicare coverage before age 65.

If you’ve received disability benefits for at least 24 months, you’ll get Parts A and B automatically. Special rules apply if you have ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) or end stage renal disease (kidney failure).

OK, I think I can get Medicare coverage. But what does it cost?

Next

Share This Page

Free Medicare guide

Just the facts you need to understand your options.