Health Care Article | Transamerica

Do You Know When and How to Apply for Medicare?


In an effort to plan for and understand the impacts that health care will have on your retirement, it is critical to understand how and when to enroll in the various Medicare programs available. 

Most people will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B when they turn 65 (if they're already receiving Social Security benefits) or when they apply for Social Security benefits at age 65. There are, however, other Medicare enrollment periods–each with different rules and restrictions. And you aren't allowed to enroll or 'un-enroll' whenever you want.

Medicare enrollment periods

Initial Enrollment Parts A and B

The Initial Enrollment Period for Parts A and B starts three months before the month of your 65th birthday and ends three months later, lasting a total of seven months. If you are disabled, you can enroll after receiving disability benefits for 24 months. 

Special Enrollment Period for Part B

A Special Enrollment Period allows you to avoid the penalty for late enrollment. You may qualify if you delayed part B because you or your spouse had medical coverage through a union or employer. Or, you cancelled Part B coverage because you went back to work and had group coverage. The Special Enrollment Period begins when your employer or union coverage ends (whichever is first) and lasts eight months. 

General Enrollment Period for Parts A and B

Anyone who didn't enroll in Part A or B during their Initial Enrollment Period may enroll in either or both parts during the General Enrollment Period, January 1 to March 31 every year. 

Initial Coverage Election Period for Part C

Enrolling in Medicare Part C (a Medicare Advantage plan) is optional. You must be eligible for both Parts A and B to enroll. The coverage election period may be three or seven months depending on when you enroll in Parts A and B. 

Annual Election Period for Parts C and D

The Annual Election Period takes place October 15 to December 7 every year. During this period you can join, change, or drop a Part C or Part D plan. 

Initial Enrollment Period for Part D

If you are newly eligible for Medicare, your initial enrollment period for Part D is the same as the period for Parts A and B. You must be eligible for both Parts A and B to enroll.