When Does Medicare Start?
Your Medicare coverage officially starts on the first day of the month you turn 65. The only exception is if your birthday is the first day of the month – then, your Medicare coverage would start the month before you turn 65.
There is some preparation to do before you turn 65, though.
Medicare Part A is free for anyone who has worked more than 40 quarters. We rarely come across anyone who has to pay for Medicare Part A. However, if you do have to sign up for Medicare Part A, you can do so up to 3 months before you turn 65.
You have until 3 months after your 65th birthday to sign up, and if you miss that window, you’ll be subject to penalties.
Medicare Part B is optional. If you’re still working and have health insurance through your employer, sometimes it’s best to keep your current insurance and delay signing up for Medicare Part B. If you’re working past 65, you can read more about our recommendations here.
However, if you do want Medicare Part B when you turn 65, it works the same way as Medicare Part A. Simply sign up during the 7-month window that includes 3 months before your birthday, the month of your birthday, and 3 months after your birthday.
If you didn’t sign up for Medicare when you were first eligible, you can sign up during the General Enrollment Period.
The General Enrollment Period is from January 1-March 31 each year, and your coverage would officially start July 1. You may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Medicare if you didn’t sign up for Medicare during your 7-month window.
There are some special circumstances where you could sign up for Medicare during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). You can read more about special enrollment periods here.
Medicare Part D, or your prescription drug coverage, is optional, but if you decide not to get it, there are late enrollment penalties involved. If you’re signing up for Medicare Parts A and B when you turn 65, you would also need to get Medicare Part D.
Otherwise, Medicare Part D would start whenever you choose to sign up, such as when you’re retired. If you decide to delay signing up for Medicare D because you don’t need any prescriptions right now, you should be aware that the penalty is 1% of the national base beneficiary premium multiplied by the number of months you didn’t have Part D drug coverage.
For example, your Initial Enrollment period ended in on May 31 of 2015. You didn’t join Part D until December 7, 2017, which means your drug plan will be effective January 1, 2018. Since you didn’t have drug coverage from June 2015 through December 2017, your penalty is 31% of $35.63.
In sum, you would pay $11 in addition to your regular monthly premium.
There are some other situations where your Medicare might start before you’re 65. For example, if you have a disability, you automatically get Part A and Part B after you get disability benefits from Social Security for 24 months or certain disability benefits from the RRB for 24 months.
If you have End-Stage-Renal Disease, you can get Medicare if all of these apply:
- Your kidneys no longer work
- You need regular dialysis or have had a kidney transplant
- One of these applies to you:
- You've worked the required amount of time under Social Security, the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), or as a government employee
- You’re already getting or are eligible for Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits
- You’re the spouse or dependent child of a person who meets either of the requirements listed above
So, there you have it! Medicare starts for most people when they turn 65, but it can vary depending on what type of health insurance you have and when you plan on retiring.
If you have any further questions, please contact our team! We’d love to help you.
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