Countdown to Medicare Enrollment When to Enroll Basic Blue Rx Part D
Most people become eligible for Medicare when they turn age 65. This is called the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Here’s what to do as you near your IEP:
3-6 months before you’re eligible for Medicare
Continue to become familiar with Medicare and take time to learn about the different plans available that help fill Medicare’s gaps. Visit our Explore Plans section or contact your employer or former employer to see if Basic Blue Rx is an option for you.
1-3 months before you’re eligible for Medicare
You can now apply for Medicare coverage. Plan ahead so your coverage begins right when you become Medicare eligible.
For information on Basic Blue Rx call:
TTY hearing impaired users call 711
8 a.m. to 8 p.m., daily, local time.
1 month before you’re eligible for Medicare
If you haven't done so already, apply for Medicare now so your coverage is in effect the first day of your birth month.
Once you’re eligible for Medicare
Relax and enjoy your health and/or prescription drug insurance coverage. If you've followed the steps above, you'll have the coverage you want in place.
Up to 3 months after you’re first eligible for Medicare
You can still enroll for Medicare and have coverage begin one to three months after you enroll.
If you decide to work past age 65 and have coverage from your employer, you’ll have a Special Election Period (SEP) so you can enroll in Medicare when you choose to retire.
Source: Social Security Medicare Guide
When to Enroll in Medicare for the first time
A summary of Medicare enrollment dates are outlined below. We also recommend reading Medicare and You which offers a complete picture of Medicare and the enrollment process.
Original Medicare: Part A (Hospital)
You may enroll in Part A three months prior to the month in which you turn 65 even if you do not plan to retire at that time. Part B enrollment has different requirements (see below).
If you are receiving Social Security Insurance (SSI) at any age, you are automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B after 24 months - you must decline Part B if you don’t want it at that time. During that 24 month period you may qualify for Medicaid/Medical Assistance, use COBRA coverage, or services from state-specific programs.
Original Medicare: Part B (Medical)
There are three opportunities to sign up for Part B:
- Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): dates depend on conditions described below.
- Special Enrollment Period (SEP): dates depend on conditions described below.
- General Enrollment Period (GEP): January 1 — March 31.
Part B Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
- You can enroll three months prior to, the month of, or three months after your 65th birthday, during the Part B IEP.
- If you are disabled, you can enroll after your 24th month of receiving Social Security Insurance (SSI). If you want to decline Part B enrollment during the IEP, you must return your Part B notice to Social Security.
- If you don’t sign up, a 10 percent penalty is typically added to the Part B premium for each 12-month period of eligibility
- This penalty continues for as long as you have Part B, unless you qualify for the Part B Special Enrollment Period.
Part B Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for new enrollees
This period lasts for eight months and begins when your employer or union coverage ends, or when employment ends, whichever is first. To use the Part B SEP, contact Social Security four months before you retire or when your employer or union coverage ends.
You can use the Part B SEP to enroll if:
- You or your spouse have medical coverage through a union or employer with more than 20 employees
- You didn’t have Part B coverage because you went back to work and had group medical coverage
Part B General Enrollment Period (GEP) January 1—March 31
If you don’t enroll in Part B during the IEP or SEP, you can enroll during the GEP January 1- March 31 of each year. Coverage starts July 1 of the year you enroll. For each year you’re late in enrolling, you’re charged a 10 percent penalty. This charge increases each year and will continue as long as you are on Part B.
Part B and COBRA
If you’re 65 and continue employer coverage through COBRA, you should enroll in Part B within 8 months from when your COBRA begins. Otherwise, the next opportunity to enroll will be the General Enrollment Period (GEP) which is January 1 through March 31 and you will incur a 10% penalty on your premium.
|Time Period||What you can do||When you can do it|
|Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)||Enroll in a prescription drug plan, a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage||Three months prior to, the month of, or three months after your 65th birthday, or after your 24th month of receiving disability benefits|
|Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)||If already a Medicare beneficiary, enroll in or change to a prescription drug plan, a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drugs or other Medicare health plan||Each year from October 15 through December 7
(coverage effective January 1 of the following year)
|Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period||Beneficiaries may switch from an MA or MA-PD plan to another MA or MA-PD plan, or to Original Medicare. Individuals switching from an MA or MA-PD plan back to Original Medicare may also enroll in a stand-alone Part D plan.||Beneficiaries may make this change between January 1 and March 31.|
|Special Enrollment Period (SEP)||Enroll in a prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan||After an IEP or AEP has ended, if you qualify for a SEP|
Enrollment periods for other Medicare plans
Visit the website of your local Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield Plan, or contact your authorized insurance agent, to learn about enrollment periods for other Medicare plans available in your state.