As you approach your 65th birthday, you may be wondering how long it will take for your Medicare benefits to kick in and when you should enroll.
Medicare is the federal health insurance program created to make sure older Americans, and people with certain disabilities and illnesses, have access to affordable medical care. When your Medicare coverage begins may vary depending on your birthday or social security benefits, so it is important to consider these factors when deciding when to enroll.
When Can You Start Getting Medicare?
Most people become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65, though some may be eligible sooner due to illness or disability. You will have a seven-month period, called the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), to sign up to get Medicare.
Your IEP for Medicare is the three months before your 65th birthday, the month of your 65th birthday, and the three months after your 65th birthday. Signing up for Medicare at any time during this seven-month window will keep you from facing financial penalties.
Once you sign up for Medicare, you will get a red, white and blue Medicare card in the mail. Your Medicare coverage will begin between one and three months after you sign up, depending on when you enroll.
Do You Automatically Get Medicare When You Turn 65?
There are certain situations where you may be automatically enrolled in Medicare. It is important to note there are four parts of Medicare that cover specific services:
- Part A covers hospital care.
- Part B covers medical and doctor services.
- Part C is Medicare Advantage. Once you have Parts A and B, you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Private companies—like Priority Health—manage Medicare Advantage plans (Part C).
- Part D is prescription drug coverage.
While you may be automatically enrolled in one part, you may still need to manually sign up for others.
If you are already receiving social security, retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits before you turn 65, then you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B, also called Original Medicare. You will receive your Medicare card in the mail three months before your 65th birthday. Your coverage will automatically begin the first day of your birthday month.
Is There a Waiting Period for Medicare?
For those who are not automatically enrolled and need to manually sign up for Medicare, it will take between one and three months for your Medicare coverage to begin, depending on when you sign up.
If you sign up during the three months before the month of your 65th birthday, your Medicare coverage will begin on the first day of your birthday month. For example, if your birthday is August 12, and you signed up for Medicare in May, June or July, your coverage will begin on August 1.
For those who sign up for Medicare during their birthday month, Medicare coverage will start one month after you sign up. So, if your birthday is July 24 and you sign up for Medicare on July 18, your coverage will begin on August 18.
If you sign up for Medicare the month following your 65th birthday, your coverage will begin two months after you sign up. For someone with an April 4 birthday who signs up for Medicare on May 1, coverage would begin on July 1.
For those who sign up for Medicare toward the end of their IEP, two or three months after their 65th birthday, coverage will begin three months after signing up.
For those who sign up for Medicare or change their Medicare plan during the Annual Election Period (AEP) from October 15 to December 7, coverage will begin January 1. Changes made to Medicare Advantage plans during Open Enrollment from January 1 to March 31, will go into effect July 1.
Sign Up with Priority Health
If you’re approaching 65 and are looking into Medicare coverage options, consider choosing Priority Health.
To enroll, you can call a Priority Health Medicare expert toll-free at 888.481.1348 (TTY users should call 711) from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. seven days a week, or go to prioritymedicare.com to complete and submit the form online.