Generally, you reach Medicare eligibility if you or your spouse worked for at least 10 years in Medicare-covered employment and you are 65 years or older and a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. If you are not 65 yet, you might also qualify for coverage if you have a disability or with End-Stage Renal disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplant).
If you are turning 65 and you’re already getting benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), you’ll automatically get Part A and Part B starting the first day of the month you turn 65. (If your birthday is on the first day of the month, Part A and Part B will start the first day of the prior month.) If you are not automatically enrolled, you can enroll by calling Social Security at (800) 772-1213, visit their website www.ssa.gov, or apply at your local Social Security office. The best time to do this is three months before your 65th birthday that way you can make the correct insurance decisions in plenty of time.
If you’re under 65 and disabled, you’ll 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 ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), you’ll get Part A and Part B automatically the month your disability benefits begin.
If you’re automatically enrolled, you’ll get your red, white, and blue Medicare card in the mail 3 months before your 65th birthday or 25th month of disability benefits.
When to sign up for Medicare:
During the 7-month period that starts 3 months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends 3 months after the month you turn 65. Your coverage will begin the first day of the month after you ask to join a plan. If you join during one of the 3 months before you turn 65, your coverage will begin the first day of the month you turn 65.
If you didn’t sign up for Part A and/or Part B (for which you must pay premiums) when you were first eligible, and you aren’t eligible for a Special Enrollment Period, you can sign up during the General Enrollment Period between January 1–March 31 each year.
Once your Initial Enrollment Period ends, you may have the chance to sign up for Medicare during a Special Enrollment Period. If you’re covered under a group health plan based on current employment, you have a Special Enrollment Period to sign up for Part A and/or Part B any time as long as you or your spouse (or family member if you’re disabled) is working, and you’re covered by a group health plan through the employer or union based on that work.
You also have an 8-month Special Enrollment Period to sign up for Part A and/or Part B that starts the month after the employment ends or the group health plan insurance based on current employment ends, whichever happens first. Usually, you don’t pay a late enrollment penalty if you sign up during a Special Enrollment Period.