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Signing Up for Medicare for the First Time: When and How

Signing Up for Medicare for the First Time: When and How

Many requirements exist for being eligible for obtaining Medicare benefits, one of which is turning age 65. Recently, a larger portion of our population is becoming Medicare-eligible as the baby boomer generation has begun turning 65. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, more people were 65 years and over in 2010 than in any previous census.1

If you are a Medicare-eligible baby boomer you will want to spend some time learning about Medicare and your Initial Enrollment Period.

If you are turning 65 or are over 65 and already receive Social Security benefits

If you already receive Social Security benefits, you will receive a Medicare card from the Social Security Administration three months before you turn 65. If you keep your red, white, and blue Medicare card, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B.

  • Medicare Part B is optional, and you will pay a monthly premium for this coverage. If you do not want to enroll in Medicare Part B, you must follow instructions that come with your card, and send it back to the Social Security office.
  • Make sure that you understand your choices before deciding not to enroll in Medicare Part B. If you decide to wait and enroll in Medicare Part B sometime in the future, you may pay late-enrollment penalties.

If you are turning 65 or are over 65 and do not yet receive Social Security benefits

The Initial Enrollment Period for people turning 65 lasts for seven months. It begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after you turn 65. If you do not yet receive Social Security benefits, you must contact the Social Security Administration to enroll in Medicare.

  • Call your local Social Security officer or go to the Social Security Administration's website section about Medicare. Click the "Apply for Medicare Benefits" button
  • To ensure that your coverage is not delayed, it is recommended that you sign up during the three-month period before you turn 65 years old.
  • If you sign up during the month you turn 65 or during the three months after you turned 65, your Medicare coverage "start date" may be delayed for several months.

For more details about Medicare enrollment periods, please read "Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods."


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