Turning 65: When Should You Apply For Medicare?

Your 65th birthday is a big milestone to celebrate with your loved ones. Focus on the good things this life has offered you and don’t forget to sign up for Medicare – you basically have two options. Here are a few things to keep in mind, so you can take full advantage of your Medicare benefits and avoid penalties or delayed coverage.  

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

The initial enrollment period for Medicare lasts for seven months – the fourth month is the one in which you turn 65. In other words, enrollment starts three months before your birthday month, and it ends three months after.

If you want to avoid penalties or delayed coverage, make sure you sign up during your IEP in circumstances such as:

  • You purchased your own health insurance.
  • You don’t have health insurance
  • You have retiree benefits
  • You have COBRA continuation coverage
  • You are receiving veteran’s benefits from the VA
  • You are in a nonmarital relationship and you are covered by his or her insurance

When you enroll the first three months prior to your birthday month, your Medicare coverage will start on the first day of the month you turn 65 or the first day of the previous month if your birthday falls on the first day of a month. If you sign up for Medicare during the fourth month, coverage will start on the first day of the following month. But if you sign up on the 5th, 6th, or 7th month, coverage will be delayed 2-3 months.

Medicare beneficiaries that postpone enrollment because they already receive health coverage at work, still got options to sign up:

  • Special Enrollment Period (SEP): This enrollment window is only available if your employer-sponsored health coverage extends beyond your Initial Enrollment Period. It lasts through the time you have coverage from your job or your spouse’s and up to eight months after your job-based coverage ends. If you decide to enroll at any time during your employment, Medicare coverage will start on the first day of the following month and you won’t be liable for late penalties notwithstanding your age or the time when you sign up. Keep in mind that an IEP always surpasses and SEP.
  • If you live outside USA: You can’t use Medicare services abroad. You can sign up when you return to the US, but you will face late penalties or delayed coverage. However, if you have health insurance from your employer or receive coverage under the national health system of the country where you live, you can delay Medicare enrollment until the employment ends. Then, you will be entitled the same SEP as explained earlier. Other rules and exclusions may apply based on your specific circumstances.
  • Individuals in prison: In the unfortunate event you turn 65 while living in prison or a similar correctional institution, you can enroll in Part B during your IEP and pay your monthly premiums – although you can’t use Medicare services while in prison. You can also wait until you are released but you will be hit by late penalties and delayed coverage. Likewise, if you are incarcerated after 65 and are already enrolled in a Medicare plan, you are supposed to continue paying your premiums if you want to avoid penalties when you come out. Part D drug coverage has different rules – you will have a special enrollment period of up to three months once you are released.

Get started with Medicare today.


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