If you are already collecting benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), you will automatically get Part A and Part B. If you are age 65 or older and you aren’t getting Social Security or RRB benefits yet (for example, because you are still working) you will not get Part A and Part B automatically; you need to sign up for them. You should contact Social Security 3 months before you turn age 65. If you worked for the railroad, contact the RRB to sign up.

Most people do not pay a premium for Part A coverage because they (or their spouse) paid Medicare taxes while they were working. Most people do pay a premium each month for Part B. Part B is optional. Someone who doesn’t want Part B must follow the instructions that come with the Medicare card and send the card back. A person who keeps the card keeps Part B and will pay Part B premiums.

9 Months before you turn 65 6 Months before you turn 65
Learn about Medicare and related health plans Understand all of your health plan options.
Understand which medical costs you will be responsible for and determine how much you can afford. Develop a list of what is important to you.
If you are still working but plan to retire in the next year, ask your employer about your company’s sponsored health benefits for retirees. Be sure to consider possible future needs as well as your current health.

Initial Enrollment Period

What is the best time to enroll in Medicare?

The best time to enroll in Medicare Part A is during your initial Enrollment Period, when you first become eligible for Medicare, which is 3 months before your 65th birthday and ends 3 months after you turn 65.

If you do not enroll in Part A when you are first eligible, the monthly premium may go up 10% unless you are eligible for a special enrollment period.

If you do not enroll in Part B when you are first eligible, the cost of your Part B monthly premium will go up 10% for each full 12-month period you could have had Part B but didn’t sign up for it, unless you qualify for a special enrollment period. (See page 12). You may have to pay this late enrollment penalty as long as you have Part B.

Your initial enrollment period is also a good time to enroll in Medicare Advantage (Part C) or a Prescription Drug Plan (Part D). If you choose not to enroll in a Prescription Drug Plan when you first become eligible, you may be subject to a late enrollment penalty. Your late enrollment penalty will increase based on the number of months you wait to enroll and this will increase the cost of your monthly premium.

4 Months before you turn 65 3 Months before you turn 65
Compare details of Medicare health plans available in your area. Enroll in Medicare.
Consider the company’s reputation, experience and financial strength.
Decide which plan is best for you.

General Enrollment Period

When is the General Enrollment Period for Medicare?

If you do not sign up for Medicare when you first become eligible, you can sign up for Part A and/or Part B during the General Enrollment Period. The time period is January 1st to March 31st each year with coverage starting July 1st. (You may have to pay a penalty for late enrollment).

Special Enrollment Period

When is the Special Enrollment Period for Medicare?

Employer or union coverage – If you or your spouse (or family member if you’re disabled) is still working and you have health coverage through that employer or union: Contact your employer or union benefits administrator to find out how your coverage works with Medicare.

This includes federal or state employment, but not military service (unless on active duty). It may be to your advantage to delay Part B enrollment.

You can sign up for Part B without paying a penalty any time you have credible health coverage based on current employment.

Once your employment or coverage ends you have 8 months to sign up for Part B without a penalty.

If you choose COBRA, don’t wait until your COBRA ends to enroll in Part B.

Note: Even if you take COBRA benefits, the 8 month SEP begins when your employment ends.

Enrollment Questions

Who do I ask about Medicare Enrollment?

For more detailed information about enrolling in Medicare Part A and B call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778.

If you get RRB benefits, call your local RRB office or 1-877-772-5772. For general information about enrolling, visit www.medicare.gov and select, “Find Out If You Are Eligible for Medicare and When You Can Enroll”.

How to Enroll

How to Enroll in Medicare by Phone?

Call Social Security Office.

1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778)

7am to 7pm | Monday through Friday

You’ll be given an appointment to talk to a Social Security representative and you will be asked to mail a copy of your birth certificate or other proof of age.

How to Enroll in Medicare in Person?

Take proof of your age and W-2 forms from your past two years to any Social Security Office. Your local phone directory will list the office nearest you.

How to Enroll in Medicare Online?

Apply online at: www.ssa.gov

Enrolling in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D)

More about enrolling in Medicare Part C and Part D.

Every year you have a chance to make changes to your Medicare Advantage or Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage for the following year.

Annual Enrollment Period

When is the Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare?

If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period and you would like to enroll in a Medicare Advantage or a Prescription Drug Plan, you will have to wait until the next Annual Election Period - October 15th through December 7th each year. If you enroll during the Annual Election Period, your coverage will start the following January. This is also a time where you may change your current Medicare Advantage or Part D Plan.

Open Enrollment Period

When is the Open Enrollment Period for Medicare?

Open Enrollment Period is January 1st through March 31st each year. If you enrolled in a new Medicare Advantage Plan during AEP, or if you missed enrolling in a new plan during AEP this is your chance to make a change. (Some restrictions apply.)