If you’re nearing your 65th birthday, it’s time to start thinking about enrolling in Medicare, the federal health insurance program that helps tens of millions of older adults and younger people with disabilities pay for their health care.
If you’re not receiving Social Security benefits, you’ll need to take steps to enroll. Keep in mind, you can enroll only at certain times. If you sign up late, you could end up with gaps in coverage and costly penalties for the rest of your life.
Signing up is, at its most simple, a five-step process. We’ll walk you through each step in detail.
1. Do your homework before turning 65
You can start exploring your Medicare options in your early 60s, but you should look more closely as soon as you turn 64. Consider taking the following steps.
- Meet with your benefits manager to discuss health insurance options if you’re still working.
- Determine your Medicare enrollment window. This is the seven-month initial enrollment period that begins three months before the month you turn 65 and ends three months after your birthday month.
- Check out the Medicare website and master the online tools.
- Create a My Social Security account if you don’t have one already. You can use it to enroll in Medicare online.
Start investigating how you plan to get coverage about six months before you turn 65. You might opt for original Medicare, also known as traditional Medicare, which includes Part A hospitalization coverage and Part B doctor and outpatient services. Many people who have original Medicare purchase Part D prescription drug coverage and a supplemental Medigap policy, which can help pay some of your out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles, copayments and other expenses.
Another option is to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan, which includes parts A and B and usually Part D.
2. Look at enrolling — if you're not already getting Social Security
If you’re not receiving Social Security benefits yet, you’ll have to take action to enroll in Medicare. You’re ready to sign up if: