Timing is everything for Medicare.
If you miss an enrollment deadline, you may have to wait to get coverage and pay a late penalty. But in some cases, you can avoid the penalty when you sign up for Medicare outside your initial enrollment period (IEP) that starts three months before the month you turn 65 and ends three months after if you qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP).
You also can sign up during a general enrollment period (GEP). But you still may have to pay a penalty.
How a special enrollment period works
If you or your spouse works and you have health insurance through either of your employers, you might decide to sign up for Medicare Part A, which covers hospitalization. Most people don’t pay premiums for Part A because they or their spouse had Medicare taxes deducted from their paychecks for at least 40 quarters, the equivalent of 10 years.
When your job-based health insurance ends, because of retirement or another reason, you can sign up for Part B during a special enrollment period. Sign up before your coverage ends or within eight months of losing the insurance to avoid a late enrollment penalty.
Other coverage decisions. You’ll also need to make decisions about other types of coverage when you enroll in Medicare, including Part D prescription drug coverage and Medicare supplement insurance, better known as Medigap, to help pay Medicare’s deductibles and copayments.
Or you may decide to get a private Medicare Advantage plan that provides health and drug coverage. You must have Medicare Part A and Part B before you can enroll in Medigap or Medicare Advantage.
11 steps to enroll online in Part B
To enroll in Part B during a special enrollment period, visit the Social Security Administration Medicare page and click on Sign up for Part B only | Get started. Scroll down to submit an application | start application.
To complete the form, you’ll need your Medicare number, documentation of your spouse’s or your health insurance and an email address.