Some People Get Part A and Part B Automatically

If you’re already getting benefits from us or the RRB, you’ll automatically be enrolled in both Part A and Part B starting the first day of the month you turn 65. If your birthday is on the first day of the month, Part A and Part B will start the first day of the prior month. If you’re under 65 and have a disability, you’ll automatically get Part A and Part B after you get disability benefits from Social Security for 24 months. Also, you’ll automatically get Part A and Part B after you get certain disability benefits from the RRB. If you have ALS, you’ll get Part A and Part B automatically the month your Social Security disability benefits begin. 

NOTE: Medicare Part B is voluntary and you must pay a premium if you decide you want the coverage.

If You Are 65 and Not Getting Social Security or Railroad Retirement Benefits

If you’re not already getting benefits, you should contact us about three months before your 65th birthday to sign up for Medicare. You should sign up for Medicare even if you don’t plan to retire at age 65. 

However, if you are eligible for Medicare and your medical insurance coverage is through a current employer’s group health plan, Medicare has a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to sign up for Medicare Part B. This SEP qualifies you to delay enrolling in Medicare Part B without having to wait for a General Enrollment Period (GEP) and paying the penalty for late enrollment.

Getting Your Medicare Card 

After you enroll in Medicare, you’ll receive a red, white, and blue Medicare card showing whether you have Part A, Part B, or both. Keep your card in a safe place so you’ll have it when you need it. If your card is lost or stolen, you can request a replacement card at 1-800-772-1213, TTY 1-800-325-0778. You’ll also receive Medicare & You (Publication No. CMS-10050), a handbook that describes your Medicare benefits and plan choices.

Initial Enrollment Period for Part B

If you are already getting benefits from Social Security or the RRB, you will automatically get Part A and Part B starting on the first day of the month when you turn 65. If your birthday is on the first day of the month, Part A and Part B will start the first day of the prior month. 

You will need to choose which way to get your Medicare health coverage: 

  • Original Medicare — includes Part A and Part B. You can buy supplemental coverage from a private company to help pay your out-of-pocket costs. You can also add Medicare drug coverage (Part D). 
  • Medicare Advantage — a Medicare-approved plan from a private company that bundles your Part A, Part B, and usually drug coverage (Part D) into one plan. Most plans include extra benefits like vision, hearing, dental, and more.

If you’re under 65 and have a disability

you’ll automatically get Part A and Part B after you get SSDI benefits or certain disability benefits from the RRB after 24 months. 

12 If you are not receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits at age 65, you can first sign up for Part A or Part B (together or individually) during the seven month period that begins three months before the month you turn 65. This period includes the month you turn 65 and ends three months after the month you turn 65. 

NOTE: If you don’t enroll in Part B when you’re first eligible for it, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage. Also, you may have to wait to enroll, which will delay this coverage.

When does my enrollment in Part B become effective? 

If you accept the automatic enrollment in Medicare Part B or if you enroll during the first three months of your age 65 IEP, your coverage will start with the month you’re first eligible. If you enroll during the last four months, your coverage will start from one to three months after you enroll. 

The following chart shows when your Medicare Part B becomes effective:

General Enrollment Period for Part B 

If you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B during your IEP, you have another chance each year to sign up during a GEP from January 1 through March 31. Your coverage begins on July 1 of the year you enroll. However, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage. Your monthly premium will go up 10% for each 12-month period you were eligible for Part B, but didn’t sign up for it.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period for people leaving Medicare Advantage plan

If you’re in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can leave that plan and switch to Original Medicare from January 1 through March 31. If you use this option, you also have until March 31 to join a Medicare Part D (Medicare prescription drug plan). Your coverage begins the first day of the month after the plan gets your enrollment form.

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