Enrolling in Medicare

How to enroll in Medicare

The enrollment process is different for the various parts of Medicare and not everyone needs all of the parts. This page explains your coverage choices.

Part A and Part B

Many people are automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B. If you are receiving Social Security retirement benefits or disability, you will be automatically enrolled and will receive a red, white, and blue Medicare card in the mail three months before your 65th birthday or after 24 months of disability.

If you are not receiving Social Security benefits, you must sign up for Part A and Part B. As mentioned earlier, you can first sign up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday. Although Medicare is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, you sign up for it through the Social Security Administration.

If you are not eligible for premium-free Part A, and don’t sign up when you are first eligible, your Part A premium may be 10% higher for twice the number of years that you were eligible for Part A but didn’t enroll. This page explains the Part A late enrollment penalty.

Many people who are still working at age 65 receive health benefits through their employer, or have veterans health benefits or another type of insurance, and don’t need Part B.

This page can help you decide whether you need Part B based on your situation.

For more information about enrolling in Parts A and B, visit this page.

Part D

If you want Part D’s prescription drug coverage, you must sign up with a Medicare prescription drug plan. These plans are run by private insurance companies for Medicare.

Like Part A, there is a late enrollment penalty for failing to enroll in Part D when you are first eligible. The penalty is triggered if at any time after your initial enrollment period is over, you don’t have Part D or other creditable prescription drug coverage for 63 consecutive days. The penalty is 1% of the monthly premium times the number of full months you were without Part D or other creditable prescription drug coverage after your initial enrollment period.

The Medicare site describes the Part D late enrollment penalty and how to avoid it:

Medicare Advantage Plans

Instead of enrolling in Part A, B, and D separately, you can choose to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan. These are HMOs and PPOs which are run by private insurance companies with approval by Medicare.                                    

For more information about Medicare, we recommend these sites:

www.medicare.gov – the official Medicare website

Download the Medicare guide from the Social Security Administration here.

www.medicaremadeclear.com – a private site with good information about Medicare

This guide describes Medicare in more detail, including your Medicare enrollment options.

Find what Medicare plans are available to you here.

You can get free personalized guidance about your Medicare health plans by contacting your state’s health insurance assistance program.

Next: Choosing a Medicare plan