When you’re first eligible for Medicare, you have a 7-month Initial Enrollment Period to sign up for Part A and/or Part B.
For example, if you’re eligible for Medicare when you turn 65, you can sign up during the 7-month period that:
- Begins 3 months before the month you turn 65
- Includes the month you turn 65
- Ends 3 months after the month you turn 65
If you have to buy Part A and/or Part B, you can only sign up during a valid enrollment period.
If you wait until the month you turn 65 (or the 3 months after you turn 65) to enroll, your Part B coverage will be delayed. This could cause a gap in your coverage.
In most cases, if you don’t sign up for Medicare Part B when you’re first eligible, you’ll have to pay a late enrollment penalty. You’ll have to pay this penalty for as long as you have Part B and could have a gap in your health coverage.
The best time to sign up is 3 months before your 65th birthday and coverage will start on the 1st of the month of your birthday. Be sure to let your prior carrier know at least 30 days in advance. Especially if it's Covered CA! That way you don't have double premiums and duplicate coverage.
Once you enroll in Parts A & B, you are then eligible to get a Medi Gap Plan and part D Rx or Medicare Advantage (HMO) to fill in the gaps that Medicare doesn't pay. Please note that prescription drug coverage is mandatory with a penalty when you eventually sign up, if you didn't sign up when you are supposed to.
What is a better choice for Me?
Special circumstances (Special Enrollment Periods)
- Can you postpone Part A enrollment if you are covered under a Employer Group Plan?
- Early Retirement – What Health Insurance?
- Transitioning from Employer Group Coverage to Medicare
Resources & Links
Medicare has done an excellent job of explaining how and when to enroll in their:
Guide Medicare & You,
Publication 11036 Enrolling in Parts A & B,
CA Health Line 10.27.2016
Washington Post on how to figure out Medicare and choose the correct plan