Breaking down the enrollment periods and eligibility
Medicare enrollment is automatic for some. For those receiving Social Security benefits, the coverage starts on the first day of the month you turn 65.1
If you are not receiving Social Security benefits at 65, you may be delaying until you reach full retirement age, or until you reach 70. If you’re coming up on 65 and not receiving Social Security benefits, SSDI, or benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board, you can still apply for Medicare coverage. You can visit your local SSA office or visit www.socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly/ to determine your eligibility.1
If you’re getting Social Security checks and approaching age 65, you’ll get a Medicare card in the mail three months before your 65th birthday. If you are getting SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance; regardless of your age), the card is scheduled to arrive coincidental with your 25th month of disability. You must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent legal resident of this country. If so, you or your spouse must have earned sufficient credits to be eligible for Medicare, typically earned over 10 years.2
When can you add or drop forms of Medicare coverage? Medicare has enrollment periods that allow you to do this.
*The initial enrollment period is seven months long. It starts three months before the month in which you turn 65 and ends three months after that month. You can enroll in any type of Medicare coverage within this seven-month window – Part A, Part B, Part C (Medicare Advantage Plan), and Part D (prescription drug coverage). As it happens, if you don’t sign up for some of this coverage during the initial enrollment period, it may cost you more to add it later.1
*Once you are enrolled in Medicare, you can only make changes in coverage during certain periods of time. For example, the open enrollment period for Part D is October 15-December 7, with Part D coverage starting January 1.1
Do you have questions about eligibility or the eligibility of your parents? Your first stop should be the Social Security Administration (see the contact information in the fourth paragraph above). You can also visit www.medicare.gov and www.cms.gov.
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1. medicare.gov, October 20, 2020
2. aarp.org, October 1, 2020