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Don’t Wait to Sign Up for Medicare Part B!

Medicare enrollment timelines can be tricky. Sometimes, it’s OK to skip an enrollment period, and other times, skipping one can result in coverage loss and penalties. If you’re turning 65 soon, you might be wondering if you should wait to sign up for Medicare Part B, especially if you still have insurance through your employer. While the answer is not a simple “yes” or “no,” we do have some helpful tips for you as you navigate this time in your life.

Should I Enroll in Medicare When I Turn 65?

Most people become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65. You don’t necessarily have to enroll in Medicare at that time, but you’ll need to understand the consequences of not enrolling as soon as you’re eligible. Let’s take a look at each part of Original Medicare.

Medicare Part A

As long as you’ve met the minimum requirements, you’ll receive premium-free Part A. To meet this requirement, you or your spouse must have worked and paid taxes for 40 quarters (or ten years). Since you likely won’t pay a premium for Part A, it makes sense to enroll as soon as you’re eligible for Medicare, even if you’ll still have other coverage through an employer. Whether Medicare becomes your primary or secondary coverage depends on the size of your employer.

The only caveat to this is if you are actively contributing to a Health Savings Account (HSA). Once you enroll in Medicare, even if it’s just Part A, you can no longer contribute to an HSA. If you have this option, you’ll have to consider which is more important to you - extra coverage or tax advantages.

Medicare Part B

Everyone pays a premium for Part B, so this is when some people choose to postpone signing up for Medicare Part B. However, we only recommend this if you have creditable coverage. Creditable coverage means that your current health insurance is just as good (or better than) Original Medicare. A good rule of thumb is that if your employer has at least 50 employees, your coverage is creditable. Be sure to check with your HR coordinator or plan administrator to make sure you have creditable coverage. Without it, you’ll face lifelong penalties if you delay Medicare Part B enrollment.

Woman with raised hand, asking if she should sign up for Medicare Part B

Will Medicare Automatically Enroll Me in Coverage?

Some people are surprised to learn that Medicare doesn’t automatically enroll you when you turn 65. You won’t even get a letter reminding you to enroll. 

However, there are some instances when automatic enrollment in Medicare occurs.

  • If you’ve been receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits for at least four months before your 65th birthday.

  • If you’ve been receiving disability benefits.

  • If you have ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

In all of those scenarios, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Parts A and B. If you would like to opt out of one or both parts, you’ll have to contact the Medicare program to do so. You’ll receive your Medicare ID card in the mail and can return it with the form that allows you to request this.

So, unless one of those three situations applies to you or you have creditable coverage, you’ll need to enroll in both parts of Medicare when you turn 65. The first chance you have to enroll is called your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Your IEP is specific to your birthday. It begins three full months before your birthday month and ends three full months following your birthday month, for a total of seven months.

If you apply prior to your birthday month, coverage may begin on the first day of the month of your birthday. If you enroll during your birthday month or one of the three months following, your coverage will begin on the first day of the month after you apply for coverage.

Get Help from Medicare Experts

Medicare enrollment periods can be hard to keep up with. Even after you enroll in Medicare for the first time, there are still enrollment windows you’ll need to track. Get help staying on top of your coverage by contacting Local Medicare Specialists. We’ll make sure you enroll on time and keep you up-to-date about any important timelines and changes.

Still Have Medicare Questions?

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