As many individuals begin to approach retirement age they often start wondering,” When Can I apply for Medicare?” Generally speaking, the answer is 65. While the answer may seem simple, the process can sometimes be a bit overwhelming and confusing. Lucky for you, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to find out how and when to apply for Medicare benefits.
When am I eligible to Sign up for Medicare?
Most individuals are eligible for Medicare when they turn 65 however, there are a few instances in which you may be eligible before your 65th birthday. Let’s take a look at each scenario in which you would be eligible to apply for Medicare:
- Age: You are eligible to sign up for Medicare during a Seven-month time frame around your 65th birthday. The window of eligibility begins three months before your birthday, continues through your birth month, and ends three months after your birthday.
- Disability: If you have a disability and have been receiving social security benefits for 24 consecutive months you are eligible to apply for Medicare regardless of age.
- Lou Gehrig’s Disease: If you suffer from Lou Gehrig’s disease, also know as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), you will automatically qualify for Medicare even if you aren’t 65.
What Plans Can I Sign Up For?
Generally speaking, there are four main parts of Medicare:
- Medicare Part A, also known as Hospital Insurance, covers most inpatient hospital services, home healthcare, and hospice care. Medicare part A is part of Original Medicare which consists of Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B.
- Medicare Part B, also known as Medical Insurance, covers most outpatient medical services such as preventive care, lab tests, x rays, ambulance services, and more.
- Medicare Part C, most commonly known as Medicare Advantage, is offered through private insurance companies and provides all the same benefits as Original Medicare plus more. Most Part C plans offer vision, dental, and prescription drug coverage.
- Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage and is offered through private insurance companies approved by Medicare.
In addition to these plans, there are ten supplement insurance plans you can purchase, known as Medigap plans, that will help cover the gaps in coverage from Original Medicare.
When are the Deadlines to Apply?
1. Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
“When can I apply for Medicare?” The initial enrollment period is your first opportunity. This enrollment opportunity is available for a seven-month period of time. The seven-month window begins three months before your 65th birthday, your birth month, and three months after your birthday. If you fail to sign up for Medicare during this time you may be subject to a late enrollment penalty.
2. Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
The special enrollment period is available for those who continue working past 65 and have health coverage through their employer or spouse. The time frame for SEP is eight months, which begins one month after your employment or health coverage ends.
3. General Enrollment Period (GEP)
The general enrollment period begins on January 1st and ends on March 31st. If you missed your initial enrollment period you will need to sign up for Medicare during this time. Keep in mind, although you do sign up for Medicare at the beginning of the year, your coverage won’t take effect until July 1st of the same year. You will also likely incur a late enrollment penalty if you missed your initial enrollment period.
4. Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)
The annual enrollment period runs from October 15th through December 7th. During this time frame, you can add Medicare plans, drop Medicare plans, and make changes to existing Medicare plans. Any changes made during this enrollment period will take effect in January the following year.
How to Apply for Medicare
After asking, “When can I apply for Medicare?” The next most common question is, “How do I apply for Medicare?” There are various ways you can apply for Medicare including:
- Online: ssa.gov
- By Phone: 1-800-772-1213
- In-person at your local social security office
- Through a licensed Medicare Insurance Agent
Documents Needed to enroll in Medicare
- Birth certificate or other proof of birth
- Proof of United States Citizen Ship or legal residency
- Driver’s License
Help with Enrolling in Medicare
We understand the question, “When can I apply for Medicare?” can be a confusing one. Trying to figure out which coverage is best for you while juggling enrollment periods, costs, insurance gaps, and more can leave anyone feeling frustrated and helpless. Enlisting the help of an experienced Medicare insurance agent can help ease the stress of signing up for Medicare. With over 40 years of insurance experience, Griset Medicare Solutions has guided countless individuals through the Medicare enrollment process and has helped them choose the Medicare plan that best meets their needs.
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