The federal health insurance program has certain enrollment periods and specific times of the year when you can change your plan. If you miss these timeframes, you may receive a late-enrollment penalty or have to wait for the next period.
Your initial enrollment period is seven months long. The enrollment period automatically starts three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after that birthday. During that time, you can apply for all or some of the Medicaid parts. For example, you can sign up for:
- Part A only.
- Part B only.
- Part C only.
- Part A and B (Original Medicare).
- Part A, B, and D.
If you are an SSI applicant, the program will automatically enroll you in Medicare coverage. If you are not an SSI applicant, you will need to apply for coverage.
Your Medicare Part B coverage will start late if you wait until your birthday month or after. Similarly, if you delay signing up in Medicare Part B, however, your monthly premium costs increase when you enroll.
Your premium increases 10 percent for every 12 months you delay enrollment. Program officials may waive the surcharge if you can prove you had adequate coverage, such as insurance through an employer, during the time when you first became eligible until you apply.
You may also sign up under special circumstances, like losing your employment or insurance. You will have eight months to sign up for Medicare Part A and B.
If you are eligible for Medicare enrollment due to a disability or medical condition, your enrollment may be automatic. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will automatically enroll beneficiaries enrolled in disability benefits after receiving payments for 24 months.
If you have End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), you may enroll in Medicare quicker. For instance, you are eligible for Medicare on the first day of your fourth month of receiving dialysis. With ALS, you can enroll as soon as your disability benefits began.
The Medicare program is subject to enrollment and other changes to coverage. For example, coverage for immunosuppressants will no longer end after 36 months, as of 2023. Instead, the coverage will continue for the life of the transplanted kidney.
You can also apply for Original Medicare between January 1st and March 31st if you miss or delay enrolling when you are first eligible. This time is the general enrollment period. However, this is not the same open enrollment period if you wish to apply for Part C.