Medicare enrollment can be confusing, especially for new members as those new to Medicare may be pondering how Medicare qualification and enrollment work. To be eligible for Medicare enrollment, you must be age 65 or older and be a US citizen or legal permanent resident for at least 5 continuous years. People under 65 can also qualify for Medicare through disability or specific health conditions.
The time to sign up for Medicare may depend on your individual situation. Some Medicare beneficiaries are automatically signed up for Medicare, while other beneficiaries will need to enroll manually during their Initial Enrollment Period.
Initial Enrollment Period for Original Medicare
Many Medicare beneficiaries are automatically enrolled in Original Medicare. If you are already receiving retirement benefits from SSA or RRB before turning 65, then you will be automatically enrolled for Original Medicare on the first day of the month you turn 65. You can also be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare if you qualify due to a disability or have certain health conditions such as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Those that qualify for Medicare due to their disabilities are eligible for Medicare after 2 years of receiving disability benefits, and they will be automatically signed up for Medicare in the 25th month of receiving their disability benefits from Railroad Retirement Board benefits or Social Security benefits.
If any of these situations don’t apply to you, you will be required to enroll in Original Medicare manually. You can sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which is a 7-month period that starts 3 months before your 65th birthday and ends 3 months after your 65th birthday.
Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare Part D
You may be able to sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan provided by a private insurance company approved by Medicare. However, like Medicare Advantage plans, you are first eligible for Medicare Part D when you are enrolled in Original Medicare. For most Medicare beneficiaries, their Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare Part D starts at the same time as their 7-month Initial Enrollment Period for Original Medicare.
However, do keep in mind that delaying your enrollment in Original Medicare or Part D can result in late enrollment penalties, which is why it’s always advised to enroll as soon as you become eligible.