That depends on when you retire. Medicare has its own rules about when you can enroll, along with late enrollment penalties to motivate you to sign up on time. The best time to sign up for Medicare is during your Initial Enrollment Period, which begins three months before the month you turn 65. You can enroll through Social Security.
Why Enroll in Medicare
Medicare includes hospital and medical insurance, designed to cover a majority of your healthcare expenses. Although it does have gaps such as for dental, vision, and hearing coverage, it’s relatively affordable coverage. You will pay monthly premiums, a deductible for each part, and copayments and coinsurance as needed, which will not amount to more than 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for covered services.
Even if you decide not to stick with Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and you switch to a Medicare Advantage plan or add a Medicare Supplement plan, you still need to sign up for Medicare during your first available opportunity. You may have secondary insurance through an employer if you are waiting to retire until your full retirement age of 67, but you should still sign up for Medicare when you turn 65.
Most people receive premium-free Part A because they have worked long enough while paying taxes. You can choose to delay enrollment in Part B (which has monthly premiums) without having to pay a late enrollment penalty if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. One of the qualifying circumstances is leaving coverage from your employer or union (including COBRA coverage). Sign up during the eight months following the end of your employment or coverage, whichever comes first.
When to Enroll in Medicare
Your first opportunity to enroll in Medicare comes three months before the month of your 65th birthday. This begins your Initial Enrollment Period, which extends three months after your birthday month.
The time you sign up impacts when your coverage begins. If you sign up in the three months before your birthday month, your coverage will begin on the first day of your birthday month — unless your birthday is on the first, in which case coverage begins the first day of the previous month. If you sign up during the month you turn 65, your coverage begins one month later. If during the month after your birthday, your coverage begins two months later. If you sign up two or three months after your birthday, your coverage will begin three months later.
How to Enroll in Medicare
You can enroll in Medicare through Social Security. To sign up, you can contact Social Security. Do this by visiting your local Social Security office, by applying through Social Security’s secure online application which you can find on their website, or by calling Social Security.
Need help signing up for Medicare? The Federal Employee Service Association can help you.