When You Need Medicare Before Social Security

If you are receiving Social Security benefits, a Medicare enrollment package will be mailed to you three months before you turn 65.  In addition, Social Security will automatically enroll you in Medicare Part A (which is premium free), and Part B. If you choose not to enroll in Medicare Part B, you will need to opt out. 

However, not everybody is eligible for Social Security benefits at 65.  In fact, some people will not be eligible until they are 67.  For these people, enrollment in Medicare is not automatic.

If you will not be receiving Social Security retirement benefits when you are 65 years old, you will need to contact Social Security to sign up for Medicare.  It’s important to do this as soon as possible, so you don’t miss your initial enrollment period.

The earliest you can sign up for Part A is three months before you turn 65.  For up to six months after, coverage can retroactively begin at age 65.  

Your initial Part B enrollment period extends from three months before to three months after your 65th birthday. It’s definitely a good idea to enroll in Part B as soon as possible, to avoid delayed coverage.  If you don’t enroll until you turn 65, your coverage will begin the next month.  If you enroll the month after your birthday, your coverage will begin two months later.  If you enroll in the last two months of your initial enrollment period, your coverage will begin three months after.  If you don’t sign up for Part B during your initial enrollment period (unless you or your spouse are still working), your coverage will be further delayed, and you likely will need to pay a penalty for your Part B premium. 

Signing up for Part D, Prescription Drug Coverage, works much the same way.  Your initial enrollment period is three months before until three months after you turn 65, and late enrollment often results in a premium penalty. 

If you don’t expect to receive Social Security benefits by age 65, contact Social Security to apply for Medicare, at 1-800-772-1213

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