Every Medicare beneficiary will have an IEP, or Initial Enrollment Period, during which they are eligible to enroll in Medicare. You can enroll in either Medicare Parts A and B or Medicare Advantage during this time. If you choose Parts A and B, you can also add on Part D (prescription drug coverage) and Medicare Supplements.
Your IEP will begin three months before you turn 65 and will end three months after, giving you a total of a seven-month enrollment period. For example, if your birthday is April 1, your IEP will last from January 1 through August 1.
Some people will be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and will not have to worry about enrolling during their IEP. You may be automatically enrolled if you are turning 65 and are already getting either Social Security benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits. If you are automatically enrolled, you will receive a Medicare card about three months before your 65 birthday.
If you are not yet 65 but are receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board disability benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare after about two years of receiving disability benefits. If you have ALS, you will be automatically enrolled in the same month that your disability benefits begin. If you have ESRD (end-stage renal disease), you can enroll any time even if you are not receiving disability benefits.
In most cases, if you do not enroll during your IEP, you will be charged a late enrollment penalty fee (added to your Part B premium). If you choose to delay coverage because you already have coverage under an employer, you can have your penalty fee waived.
If you enroll within three months before your 65 birthday, your coverage will begin during your birthday month. If you wait until your birthday month or later, you may have to wait a few extra months for your coverage to become effective.
To begin your enrollment process, visit www.ssa.gov, call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or visit your local Social Security office. Railroad Retirement beneficiaries can call 1-877-772-5772 (TTY 1-312-751-4701).