You are here

How do I apply for Medicare?

Original Medicare

Some people get Original Medicare automatically. If you are not one of these people you have to sign up for Medicare. Sign up online or over the phone 1-800-772-1213.

Who gets Original Medicare automatically?

The Social Security Administration signs you up for Parts A and B automatically:

  • As soon as you turn 65, if you already get:
    • Social Security retirement benefits
    • Railroad Retirement Board Benefits, or
    • Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI
  • 24 months after you started getting disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board, if you are under age 65 and disabled;
  • The month you start getting disability benefits if you have ALS - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease;

Signing up for Original Medicare

Most people do not get Social Security benefits at age 65. If you do not get Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement Board benefits at age 65, you need to sign up for Parts A and B.

You can sign up 3 months before your 65th birthday until 3 months after the month of your birthday. This time is called your “initial enrollment period”.

Initial Enrollment Period

3 months before your birthday

S

M

T

W

Th

F

S

 

1

You can apply for Medicare

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

2 months before your birthday

S

M

T

W

Th

F

S

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

Month before your birthday

S

M

T

W

Th

F

S

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

Month of your birthday

S

M

T

W

Th

F

S

1 2 3 4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

Your birthday !

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

 

 

1st month after your birthday

S

M

T

W

Th

F

S

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

2nd month after your birthday

S

M

T

W

Th

F

S

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

3rd month after your birthday

S

M

T

W

Th

F

S

1 2 3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

Last day of enrollment period

 

 

Contact Social Security to sign up. Contact your local Railroad Retirement Board office if you work for a railroad.

If you do not sign up for Parts A and B during your “initial enrollment period”:

  • you may only be allowed to enroll during certain times of the year;
  • Your benefits may not start right away;
  • If you pay a premium, you may also have to pay a higher premium. These premium penalties will last as long as you are on Medicare. If you have other insurance, you may not have to sign up for Parts A and B in your initial enrollment period. But, check with Medicare to make sure.

Important

If you decide not to get Part B and then later you change your mind, you may have to pay a penalty. Your premiums will be much higher. For every 12 months you could have been getting Part B, your monthly premium will be 10% more.

Part C: Medicare Advantage

Usually, you can join a Medicare Advantage Plan if you already have Part A and Part B and you live in the service area of the plan.

There are certain times of the year when you can join, switch or drop a Medicare Advantage Plan.

To join, you can sign up with the plan itself or with Medicare.

Part D: Prescription Drug Insurance

Sign up for a Part D plan itself or with Medicare.

You can sign up for a Part D plan as early as 3 months before your 65th birthday until the 3 months following the month of your birthday. The time between these dates is called your “initial enrollment period”.

If you get Medicare because you have a disability, your initial enrollment period is between the 3 months before to the 3 months after your 25th month of disability.

If you do not sign up for Part D during your “initial enrollment period”, you can only join during certain times of the year. Also, you may have to pay a penalty, a higher premium, if you delay your enrollment and you do not have other qualifying health insurance. These premium penalties will last as long as you are on Medicare.

You can see some of the Part D options for your area using the Medicare Plan Finder at www.medicare.gov.

Important

If you decide not to get Part D and then later you change your mind, you may have to pay a penalty. Your premiums will be much higher. For every month you could have been getting Part D, your monthly premium will be 1% more.

Produced by Greater Boston Legal Services, Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, Community Legal Aid, and Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated November 2013

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Phone or Email

Health Care For All’s Helpline is free and available to everyone.

More Help

 

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
Monday-Friday
between
9am and 4pm