When and How Do I Sign up for Original Medicare?

There are three different time periods when you may be able to enroll in Original Medicare.

The best time to enroll is when you first become eligible for Medicare. That's the three months before you turn 65, the month of your birthday and then three months afterward.

When to apply

There are three times when you can enroll in Original Medicare, also called Medicare Part A and Part B.

Your initial enrollment period 

This is when you first become eligible. This period starts three months before your 65th birthday month and ends three months afterward. So you have seven months during this initial enrollment period to sign up.

If you apply during the three months before your 65th birthday:

  • Your benefits start on the first day of your birthday month. If your birthdate is on the first of that month, your benefits start the first day of the month before your birthdate.

If you apply during your birthday month or the three months afterward:

  • Your benefits start one to three months later, depending on when you signed up.

The general enrollment period

If you didn't sign up when you were first eligible, this is your next opportunity. This period occurs Jan. 1 through March 31 each year.

If you apply during this time:

  • Your coverage begins July 1.
  • You may have to pay a higher premium.

A special enrollment period

If you've had a qualifying life event, like moving outside your plan's coverage area, you can apply during this period. How long the period lasts depends on what your qualifying life event is.    

If you're enrolling during this time:

  • Your coverage starts the month after Social Security gets your completed application.
  • You usually won't have to pay a financial penalty.

How to apply

If you already get Social Security benefits, you'll be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare three months before you turn 65.

If not, you need to apply through Social Security one of three ways:

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