You can begin receiving Medicare benefits when you turn 65 and meet other eligibility criteria. However, you can choose not to sign up. So when is it time for Medicare? Should I apply when I turn 65 or delay enrollment?
The right time to sign up for Medicare depends on whether you have private health insurance from a current employer or your spouse's employer.
You Have Private Health Insurance
If you're receiving social security or railroad benefits
You'll be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, and your Medicare card will be sent in the mail two months before your 65th birthday.
While Part A is free if you've paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years, you'll have to pay a monthly premium for Part B.
If you have private health insurance through your active employer or spouse's employer, the best option is to delay enrollment into Medicare Part B until either the coverage or employment ends. You don't have to turn down Part A since it's free.
When you no longer have coverage or stop working, Medicare will allow you to sign up without penalty.
If you're 65 and are not receiving social security benefits
You must sign up on your own as you won't automatically enroll in Medicare. But if you are still actively working and have employer insurance or are covered under your spouse's employer insurance, you can defer it.
You Don't Have Private Health Insurance
If you don't have health insurance coverage through your current employer or spouse's employer, the best time to sign up is when you first become eligible around your 65th birthday during the initial enrollment period (IEP).
The IEP is a 7-months window that includes the 3 months before your birthday, the month you turn 65, and 3 months after you turn 65.
What happens if you delay enrollment?
If you refuse to enroll during this period, you can do so during the General Open Enrollment period, which runs from January 1 to March 31 each year.
However, you won't have coverage and will have to pay a late enrollment penalty that'll last for as long as you're a Medicare beneficiary.
You must also apply for Medicare during the IEP if you receive COBRA, retiree, or veteran benefits.
Get help with Medicare
Medicare can be very confusing, and navigating it alone can be a real headache. You need not go through all the hassle.
Our independent Medicare insurance agents are on hand to walk you through the entire process. Have a question or two on Medicare or need help signing up? Connect with a Medicare agent now.