Signing Up For Medicare: Initial Enrollment Period

Original Article by Tara O'Neill, Health Plans of NC Independent Agent

There are many different types of Medicare Enrollment Periods.  One is your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP).  If you are already receiving Social Security benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance.)  The same is true for people who receive benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board and people who have received disability benefits for 24 months.  If you are not getting these benefits, you must actively sign up for Medicare through or by visiting your local social security office.  You do not have to start your regular monthly social security benefits in order to get your entitled Medicare benefits.

Initial Enrollment Period

Your initial enrollment period is a 7-month period that:

  • Starts 3 months before you turn 65
  • Includes the month you turn 65
  • Ends 3 months after the month you turn 65.

For example, if you turn 65 on April 6, then your initial enrollment period begins January 1st and ends July 31st.  Outside of your initial enrollment period, there are other enrollment period guidelines.  You should discuss your options with a Medicare Supplement licensed agent.

One scenario is if you turn 65 and have group coverage through an employer.  While you’ll still be entitled to Part A, you may be able to delay enrolling in Parts B and D without a late enrollment penalty as long as the employer has 20 or more employees (as defined by the IRS); and the plan provides creditable drug coverage.  Make sure to check with your benefits manager before making any sudden moves.  If you leave your group coverage, you may not be able change your mind.

Once you sign up for Medicare Parts A and B, then you can fill in the gaps that Medicare doesn’t cover (about 20% of your medical costs) with a Medicare Supplement plan as well as a Part D prescription drug plan.  You also have the option to leave original Medicare and enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan.  (Note, Medicare Advantage plans are subject to an Initial Coverage Election Period which may be different than your Initial Enrollment Period, depending on when you plan to enroll in Part B.)

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