Table of Contents:

  1. How Do I Enroll in Original Medicare?
  2. Do I Have to Enroll in Medicare Part B?
  3. How Do I Enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan?
  4. How Do I Enroll in Medicare Part D?
  5. How Do I Enroll in a Medigap Plan?
  6. Will I Have to Re-enroll in Medicare Each Year?

How Do I Enroll in Original Medicare?

For individuals who receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits, enrolling in Medicare Part A and Part B is as simple as turning 65. Three months prior to your 65th birthday, you’ll receive a Medicare ID card in the mail. You will be automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B. You will have until three months after your birthday to opt out of Part B and choose Medicare Advantage (Part C) coverage and/or a Prescription Drug Plan (Part D). For example, if you turn 65 in June, your initial Medicare enrollment period will run from March through September of that year.

Seniors who are not already receiving Social Security or RRB benefits three months before turning 65 will need to apply to receive Part A and Part B coverage at that time. You can do so online or visit your local Social Security Administration office to apply.

Disabled Americans who are under 65 are automatically enrolled after 24 months of receiving disability benefits from Social Security or RRB. They can opt out of Part B and/or select additional Medicare Advantage and/or Part D coverage during the three months following their 25th month of disability.

Americans with ALS will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B the month their disability benefits begin. Americans with ESRD may enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B and will see coverage begin after three months of dialysis treatment. Coverage can begin during the first month if you opt for at-home dialysis treatments.

Do I Have to Enroll in Medicare Part B?

No. Enrolling in Medicare Part B is optional. If you decide not to enroll in Medicare Part B when you turn 65, you can enroll during the annual enrollment period (AEP) each year. This period typically runs from October 15th to December 7th. Coverage updates go into effect on January 1st.

You will pay a late-enrollment premium — an additional 10% each year — for every year you wait to enroll. You will not have to pay this fee, however, if you opted out of Part B because you were already covered by an employer or your spouse’s employer.

If you do not qualify for premium-free Part A, you have to enroll in Part B to buy Part A coverage.

How Do I Enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan?

You first become eligible to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan when you become eligible for Medicare. During the seven-month period beginning three months before your 65th birthday, you have the option to either select a combination of Part A, Part B, and Part D, or a Medicare Advantage plan.

Your selection of Medicare Advantage plans will vary based on where you live. You can review your options with Medicare’s online Plan Finder tool or contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program for additional support.

Medicare Advantage enrollees have access to an additional enrollment period each year. In 2021, the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MAOEP) runs from January 1st to March 31st. During the MAOEP, Medicare Advantage enrollees can select a new Medicare Advantage plan or revert back to Original Medicare. If necessary, enrollees who revert to Original Medicare can select Part D coverage during this period. Changes go into effect on the first day of the following month.

How Do I Enroll in Medicare Part D?

You can enroll in Medicare Part D as soon as you’re eligible for Medicare. During the seven-month period beginning three months before your 65th birthday, you have the option to either select a combination of Medicare Part A, Part B, and Part D, or a Medicare Advantage plan. Disabled Americans can make this same selection during the seven-month period beginning on the first day of their 22nd month of treatment. Americans with ALS and ESDR only have to receive benefits for five months to become eligible.

Regardless of your medical history, you can switch to a different PDP during the AEP each fall.

How Do I Enroll in a Medigap Plan?

You are first eligible to enroll in a Medigap policy during the six-month period beginning the month you turn 65 and enroll in Medicare Part B. During this period, private insurance providers must sell you a Medigap policy at the best possible rate — regardless of your health status — and they cannot deny you coverage. Providers are also barred from imposing a waiting period because of pre-existing conditions. It is generally best to enroll in a Medigap plan during this period. Depending on your home state, it may be the only guaranteed issue period you experience.

Will I Have to Re-enroll in Medicare Each Year?

Unless you are enrolled in a Medicare Savings Program (MSP), you don’t need to enroll in Medicare every year. You will, however, have an annual opportunity to review your coverage and change plans if necessary. It is important to conduct these reviews because costs, coverage details, and drug formularies can change every year.

MSP members will receive a renewal notice in the mail explaining how to re-apply and re-qualify for membership. The process varies based on carrier and state.

 

Information adapted from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services