Summary: If you’re turning 65, Medicare enrollment is right around the corner. For many, turning 65 is the first opportunity to enroll in Medicare coverage. Understanding your coverage options and how to enroll is essential for ensuring you get the health coverage you need. Estimated Read Time: 6 min
How to Sign Up for Medicare When You Turn 65
For most, the first opportunity to enroll in Medicare occurs when you’re turning 65. This period, known as the Initial Enrollment Period, begins three months before your birthday month, includes your birthday month, and ends three months after.
Once you become eligible for Medicare, you can sign up for Medicare Parts A and B through Social Security. If you sign up for Medicare during the first three months of your Initial Enrollment Period, your coverage will begin on the first of your birthday month. If your birthday is on the first of the month, your coverage will start on the first day of the month prior.
When signing up for Medicare during the month you turn 65 or during the three months after, your Medicare coverage will go into effect on the first day of the following month.
When you’re ready to sign up for Medicare, you can do so through Social Security. You can sign up online, over the phone, or visit your local Social Security office. You can apply for both Medicare Part A and Part B, or choose only to enroll in Part A and delay your Part B coverage.
If you plan on retiring when you turn 65, you can apply for benefits from Social Security before signing up for Medicare. You’ll automatically receive Medicare Part A once you start getting Social Security benefits and can choose to enroll in Part B when you apply for your benefits.
Do I Automatically Get Medicare When I Turn 65?
Some individuals will be automatically enrolled in Medicare when they turn 65, and others must sign up. You will automatically get Medicare when you turn 65 if you already receive benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board before your 65th birthday.
If this applies to you, you will automatically get Medicare Part A and Part B starting the first day of the month you turn 65. However, if your birthday is on the first of the month, you will get Medicare on the first of the month before your birthday. For example, if your 65th birthday is June 1st, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare on May 1st.
People who automatically get Medicare will receive their Medicare card in the mail three months prior to their 65th birthday. This card will have your name, Medicare number, and coverage start dates for your Medicare Part A and Part B coverage.
By default, those who automatically get Medicare at age 65 will be enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. If you wish to delay your Medicare Part B coverage (or do not wish to have it at all), you must contact Social Security prior to your Part B coverage start date (found on your Medicare card). Your Medicare Part B premium will be deducted from your Social Security benefits each month.
Medicare Options at Age 65
When entering your Initial Enrollment Period when turning 65, you have many options for Medicare coverage.
Do you want Medicare Part A and Part B coverage? Many people do not have to pay a premium for their Medicare Part A coverage due to paying Medicare taxes while working. Because of this, most people enroll in Medicare Part A as soon as they are eligible. If you get Medicare while still working, you may consider delaying your Medicare Part B coverage. You’ll want to ensure your employer’s group coverage is considered creditable so you don’t have to pay a penalty later.
Do you want drug coverage through a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan? When you enroll in Medicare Part A or Medicare Part B, you’ll become eligible to apply for a Medicare Part D drug plan. These plans help pay for your medications and are provided by private insurers. If you enroll in a Medicare drug plan when you turn 65, you can avoid getting a late enrollment penalty.
Do you want your coverage “bundled” in a Medicare Advantage Plan? After enrolling in both Medicare Part A and Part B, you can choose to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. When turning 65 and entering your Initial Enrollment Period, you will also enter your Initial Coverage Election Period for Medicare Part C. At this time, you can enroll in any Medicare Advantage plan that is available in your area.
Do you want to supplement your Medicare coverage with a Medicare Supplement Plan? When you turn 65 and enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B, you can enroll in a Medigap Plan. Once your Medicare Part B coverage begins, you will enter a six-month Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period that starts on the first day of the month your Part B coverage is active. At this time, you can enroll in an available plan without undergoing medical underwriting.
If I Have Medicare Due to a Disability, What Happens When I Turn 65?
If you already have Medicare coverage due to a disability, you’ll have the opportunity to review and change your coverage when you turn 65. Does your current Medicare coverage meet your needs? You do not need to re-enroll or make any changes to your coverage once you turn 65; any coverage you currently have will continue.
Since you basically get a second Initial Enrollment Period when you turn 65, it is a great time to review your coverage and make any changes. During this time, you may decide to:
- Get a Medicare Supplement Plan (without the need for medical underwriting)
- Enroll in a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan
- Enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan
If you decided not to get Medicare Part B coverage when enrolling in Medicare due to a disability, you will automatically be enrolled in Part B once you turn 65. Once enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, you can enroll in a Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plan. (Note: You cannot have both a Medicare Supplement plan and a Medicare advantage plan).
How TRICARE and Medicare Work When Turning 65
In most cases, you must sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B when you first become eligible to keep your TRICARE coverage. However, if you or a family member are an active-duty service member, you typically don’t have to sign up for Medicare Part B to maintain your TRICARE coverage.
When you’re on active duty with both Tricare and Medicare coverage, TRICARE will pay first for Medicare-covered services or items, and Medicare will pay second. If you’re retired or not on active duty, your Medicare coverage will pay first, and TRICARE may pay second. If you are getting services from a military hospital or other federal health care provider, TRICARE will pay first.
Turning 65 Soon? Get Help Enrolling in Medicare
Is your 65th birthday approaching? Ensure you’re prepared to enter your Initial Enrollment Period and sign up for Medicare coverage. If you have questions regarding Original Medicare or how Medicare enrollment works, give us a call at the number above. Our licensed insurance agents are prepared to answer your questions and help you with enrollment.
Original Medicare (Part A and B) Eligibility and Enrollment, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Accessed August 2023.
Medicare & You 2023, Medicare. Accessed August 2023.