You can make numerous changes to your Medicare plan during the Medicare general enrollment period, but this does not apply to Medigap plans. Medigap plans are only applicable during a beneficiary’s initial enrollment period and during special limited enrollment periods.
If you failed to enroll in the Medicare program when you first became eligible, you will not be able to enroll during the fall enrollment period. You will instead be required to apply from January 1 to March 31, which is the Medicare general enrollment period.
Typically, the Medicare general enrollment period is the time for people who did not initially sign up for Medicare Part B when they were first eligible to apply. This also includes people who don’t have access to a Medicare Part B special enrollment period.
Applicants who enroll during the general enrollment period will typically receive their coverage beginning on July 1. Keep reading to learn more about the eligibility requirements to enroll in Medicare and how to successfully enroll in a Medicare plan.
Enrolling in Medicare
If you are 65 years of age, a citizen of the United States, and are already a beneficiary of Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits…good news! You will automatically be enrolled in the government Medicare Part and and Part B plans.
If you fit into the parameters listed above, your Medicare Card will be mailed to you approximately three months before you turn 65 and coverage from the plan will begin the first month you are 65 years of age.
The cost of the monthly premium for a Medicare Part B plan will immediately be deducted from your Social Security or Railroad Retirement check. The average premium cost for a Part B plan in 2023 is $164.90 per month. This price may increase in 2024 as the cost-of-living adjustment is made.
If you want to avoid paying for premiums, you can opt out of the Medicare Part B plan. However, this is only advisable if you are insured under a health plan from your current employer or your spouse’s current employer. Typically, these group health insurance plans are affordable, and a portion of the premium is paid for by employers with 20 or more employees.
It is important to be aware that you will not automatically be enrolled in Medicare unless you are receiving benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board. If this is your situation, you will be able to enroll in Medicare during a seven-month period which includes the three months before your birth month when you turn 65 until three months after that.
Note: Be sure to apply for benefits within this seven-month enrollment period or your coverage may be delayed. Medicare enrollment assistance is available if you need it.
If you are receiving Social Security Disability benefits, you will be eligible to receive Medicare coverage after the 25th month that you receive benefits. This coverage will start automatically after two full years of receiving benefits. If you have been diagnosed with end-stage renal disease or ALS, you will not have to wait the full two years to receive Medicare coverage.
To join a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan, you must already be receiving Part A and Part B coverage and you must live in an area where the Advantage plan is available. While most parts of the country offer Medicare Part C, some rural areas may not. The Medicare Advantage plan will combine your Part A and Part B coverage into a single plan.