When can I apply for Medicare Part B?
You will have multiple opportunities to sign up for Medicare Parts A and B (also known as Original Medicare), though enrollment can only be done during certain times. Below are the most common times and circumstances for Medicare enrollment.
Some people will be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B automatically. This includes those who are already receiving Social Security or similar benefits, in which case you will be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare on the first day of the month of your 65th birthday. Automatic enrollment can also happen during the 25th month of receiving disability payments.
Initial Enrollment Period
Anyone not automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B will need to apply manually, which can be done online. Your first opportunity to do this is called your Initial Enrollment Period. This period lasts seven months, beginning three months before the month of your 65th birthday and running until three months after the month of your 65th birthday. If you do not receive Medicare coverage automatically, this is generally the best time to enroll, as you may face penalties and gaps in your coverage otherwise.
There is also a General Enrollment Period which runs from January 1st through March 31st each year. Note that choosing to delay your Medicare enrollment past your Initial Enrollment Period may lead to a late enrollment penalty. The size of this penalty will increase depending on how many years you were eligible for Part A and/or B but did not enroll.
Special Enrollment Period
You may also be able to enroll in Parts A and B during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). If you or your spouse (or another relative if you are disabled) are/is working and you receive coverage through a group health plan provided by your/their employer, you are eligible for a Special Enrollment Period and can sign up for Medicare Parts A and B at any time after you qualify. This SEP will continue for eight months following the end of the employment or the end of the group health coverage – whichever happens first. There are typically no late enrollment penalties involved with signing up during an SEP.
When does Medicare Part B coverage become effective?