MEdicare Initial Enrollment Resources

Here you’ll find the tools and resources you need to feel confident about signing up for Medicare for the first time.

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Am I Automatically Enrolled in Medicare
at 65?

Unless you are currently receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits when you turn 65, you’ll have to sign up for Medicare yourself. Medicare may not notify you about your eligibility, so be sure to get your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) dates and put them in your calendar.

It’s best to sign up for Medicare toward the start of your IEP. That way your coverage will begin as soon as you’re eligible. If you sign up during your 65th birthday month or later, your coverage start date could be delayed.

If you currently receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits however, you may be automatically enrolled. You’ll receive your Medicare card in the mail before your 65th birthday. You’ll still have an IEP, during which you may make Medicare coverage decisions.

When Can I Enroll in Medicare?

For most people, the first time you can enroll in Medicare is around your 65th birthday. You can also qualify to enroll in Medicare with a qualifying disability or medical condition.

The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

Around your 65th birthday (or 25th disability check), you’ll have a 7-month window of time when you can sign up for Medicare. It’s called your Initial Enrollment Period – or IEP for short. Your IEP includes your 65th birthday month, the 3 months before and the 3 months after.

For disability, you’ll be eligible for Medicare after you’ve received disability benefits for 24 months.

For a qualifying medical condition such as Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) or end-stage renal disease (ESRD), eligibility dates are calculated differently.


Example: You turn 65 on June 7. Your IEP is March 1 – September 30.

If, however, your birthday is on the 1st of the month, then your IEP is determined as though you were born the month before.

Example: You turn 65 on June 1. Your IEP is February 1 – August 31.

What Happens If I Miss My Initial Enrollment Period?

If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period, Medicare offers a General Enrollment Period (GEP) for those who did not sign up around their 65th birthday. You could face late enrollment penalties if you wait too long to sign up, and don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Medicare General Enrollment Period The GEP is January 1 – March 31 every year. Here’s what you need to know:
  • You can enroll in Part A, Part B or both during the time.
  • Coverage begins on July 1 of the same year.
  • You may have to pay a late enrollment penalty.
  • You may be eligible to enroll in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) or a prescription drug (Part D) plan April 1 – June 30 of the same year.

How Do I Know Which Parts of Medicare I Need?

There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to Medicare. You need to choose coverage based on your needs. Consider your health and lifestyle needs, your employment status, health conditions, prescription drug use and if you need dental or vision coverage.

Original Medicare

You may add a standalone Part D plans, a Medicare Supplement plan or both to Original Medicare (Parts A & B).

Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage (Part C) combines Part A & Part B coverage into one plan. Many come with built-in prescription drug coverage. Select plans that don’t have drug coverage allow you to add a standalone Part D plan.

What Are My Medicare Coverage Choices?

You’ll have decisions to make during your IEP, even if you’re automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B. Original Medicare doesn’t cover everything, and Medicare coverage offered by private insurers – such as a Medicare Advantage or a Part D plan – could help fill in the gaps.

You Need Prescription Drugs

You Want Help With Medicare Costs

Dental, Vision & Other Health Benefits

Dental, vision, hearing and fitness benefits are not covered by Medicare Parts A, B and D or Medicare supplement insurance plans. Only Medicare Advantage plans offer these benefits and others, such as transportation for medical appointments and virtual doctor visits.

Are You Also Eligible for Medicaid

There are Medicare plans specifically designed for people who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare. Dual Special Needs Plan (DSNPs) are a special kind of Medicare Advantage Plan that combine Parts A, B and D Medicaid, and extra benefits such as dental and vision.


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