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    Understanding Medicare    »    How do I enroll?
    Part A
    Part B
    Medicare Advantage
    Medigap
    Prescription Drug Coverage

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    Part A - Enrollment

    You will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A if you receive benefits from Social Security or at the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), starting the first day of the month you turn age 65. If you are under 65 and disabled, you will automatically receive Part A after you get disability benefits from Social Security or the RRB for 24 months. If you have ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease), you will automatically receive Part A the month your disability benefits begin.

    If you have not elected to receive Social Security, you will need to file an application for Medicare Part A. Call 1-800-MEDICARE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for more information. You should plan to contact the Social Security Administration three months before you turn age 65 in order to receive benefits on the earliest possible date.

    Those who wait past age 65 to apply for their monthly Social Security or railroad retirement benefit payments must apply in writing for Medicare benefits at a Social Security office. They can apply anytime during the year. Their Part A benefits can take effect retroactively, up to six months before they applied.

    If you have End-State Renal Disease (ESRD), there are different rules for enrollment. You can contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 to sign up.

    Those who enroll voluntarily in Part A must apply at a Social Security office. Voluntary enrollees have set time frames to enroll in the Part A program, just as with Medicare Part B (see below).
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    Part B - Enrollment

    You should be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B when you become eligible for Medicare benefits, beginning the first day of the month you turn age 65. If you are under age 65 and disabled, you will automatically receive Part B after you get disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) for 24 months. If you have ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease), you will automatically receive Part B the month your disability benefits begin. Part B is optional, can be declined, and requires that a premium be paid on a monthly basis for participation. In addition, people aged 65 and older who are U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens for five years who are not entitled to Part A through Social Security-covered employment can enroll in Part B without enrolling in Part A.
    You may have to apply if:
    1. You have not applied for Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits, or
    2. You were employed by the government, or
    3. You have kidney disease.
    There are late enrollment penalties. The initial enrollment period for Part B begins three months before the month in which you become 65, and continues until three months after the month in which you turn 65. Except in special cases, if you choose to decline Part B coverage within your initial enrollment period, the Part B premium will increase by 10% for each full 12-month period that you could have had Part B, but didn't sign up,. Thereafter, you will have to pay this penalty as long as you have Part B. If you were covered under a group health plan, you can enroll without a penalty up to eight months after your coverage ends. Call 1-800-MEDICARE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for more information.

    If you didn't enroll in Part B when you first became eligible, you may be able to enroll at one of the following times.
    • General Enrollment Period: Runs from January 1 through March 31 each year. Coverage begins July 1 and late enrollment fees may apply.
    • Special Enrollment Periods: If you or your spouse is currently working and covered by a group health plan through that work, you are eligible for a special enrollment period. You can sign up for Part B anytime while you have this coverage or during the eight-month period after your employment or group coverage ends.
    • Special Enrollment Period for International Volunteers: If you are serving as a volunteer in a foreign country, you may be eligible for special enrollment. Contact 1-800-MEDICARE for more information.
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    Medicare Advantage - Enrollment

    In general, Medicare beneficiaries can enroll or disenroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during Medicare's Annual Coordinated Enrollment Period, November 15 through December 31. (Beginning in 2011 and beyond, the annual enrollment period will run from October 15th to December 7th.) Also, starting in 2011, MA enrollees may disenroll from their MA plan and return to Original Medicare from January 1 to February 14. If an MA enrollee leaves an MA plan to return to Original Medicare during this period, the enrollee may select a stand-alone prescription drug plan. While you enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B directly with Medicare, you can enroll in Medicare Advantage plans through the individual companies offering the plans or one of their representatives, such as OneExchange. You can only be in one Medicare Advantage plan at a time and, in most cases, you must remain enrolled in the plan for the entire calendar year. If you have both Medicare and full Medicaid benefits, you may switch plans at any time.

    Medicare Advantage plans cannot deny an applicant due to age or health (the only exception is individuals with end-stage renal disease or for Special Needs Plans aimed at certain populations). Also, premiums cannot vary by age or health.

    To speak with a Benefits Advisor about enrolling in a Medicare Advantage Plan please toll free at
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    Medigap Supplement Plans - Enrollment

    You must be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B to be eligible for a Medigap policy. The best time to enroll in a Medigap plan is during the six month enrollment period which begins on the first day of the first month that you have; a) attained age 65 and b) enrollment in Medicare Part B benefits. During this period, private insurers must waive exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and accept all eligible applicants. Also, they cannot make you wait for your coverage to start. If you wait until after this six month period, insurers can determine whether or not they want to sell you a particular plan.

    Under federal law, once your open enrollment period ends, Medigap insurers can refuse to offer you a Medigap plan because of your age or health status. They can also accept your enrollment subject to exclusions for pre-existing conditions. It is important to make your decision and enroll within your open enrollment window.

    To speak with a Benefits Advisor about enrolling in a Medicare Advantage Plan please toll free at
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    Prescription Drug Coverage - Enrollment

    Enrollment in Part D is voluntary, and you can enroll either directly with an individual plan or through the government.

    You can enroll in a Part D plan each year during the annual enrollment period, which lasts from November 15 to December 31 each year. Like the MA enrollment period, beginning in 2011 and beyond, the Annual Enrollment Period will be from October 15 to December 7. Generally, enrollment in a Part D plan lasts for the entire calendar year. In certain cases, such as if you move or enter a nursing home, you can switch your plan at other times.

    Late Enrollment Penalty - Under current Medicare law, people who do not enroll in Medicare Part D when they are first eligible to do so and do not have comparable drug coverage must pay a penalty for every year they have not participated. The penalty equals one percent of the national average Part D plan premium, multiplied by the number of months you delay your enrollment. People who enroll in Part D after the initial enrollment period or who fail to maintain continuous coverage during the period of non-enrollment will also have to pay a similar late enrollment penalty.

    To speak with a Benefits Advisor about enrolling in a Part D plan please call toll free at
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