| Thu, Apr 07, 2016 @ 09:00 AM

4 Steps to Enrolling in Medicare at Age 65

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

medicare eligibilityThe time has come. You’re about to turn 65, and you’re getting ready to enroll in Medicare. Where do you start?

Step 1: Know When to Enroll in Medicare

Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is your first chance to sign up for Medicare. It begins 3 months before you turn 65, includes your 65th birthday month, and lasts 3 more months after your birthday month. So you have a total of 7 months to enroll in Medicare.

You can find your personal IEP dates using our online tool.

Consider enrolling during the first 3 months of your IEP. Coverage may be delayed if you enroll during your birthday month or later.

Step 2: Learn about Original Medicare

Original Medicare is made up of Part A and Part B. It’s provided by the federal government.

Medicare Part A helps cover inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility. Most people get Part A without having to pay a monthly premium. People who do pay a premium may pay up to $411 per month in 2016.

Medicare Part B helps cover outpatient care like doctor visits and preventive screenings. Your Part B premium is based on when you enrolled in Medicare and on your income. The amount ranges from $104.90 up to $389.80 per month in 2016.

Other out-of-pocket costs with Original Medicare may include deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance.

Step 3: Learn about Private Medicare Plans and Medicare Supplement Insurance

Medicare contracts with private insurance companies to offer more coverage choices to beneficiaries.

  • Medicare Advantage (Part C) is an alternative to Original Medicare. Plans must provide the same coverage as Parts A and B. Many plans also offer additional benefits, like coverage for prescription drugs and routine dental and vision care, all in one plan.
  • Medicare Part D helps pay for prescription drugs. This coverage is not included with Original Medicare. You can add drug coverage through a standalone Part D prescription drug plan. Or you may enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage included.

You may have many private Medicare plans to choose from depending on where you live. Coverage, premiums and out-of-pocket costs may differ from plan to plan. It’s important to shop around [if you want coverage beyond what Original Medicare provides].

Medicare supplement insurance plans (Medigap) help cover some out-of-pocket costs that Original Medicare (Parts A and B) doesn’t pay. Plan availability may vary from state to state.

You must be enrolled in both Part A and Part B before you can join a private Medicare plan or a Medicare supplement insurance plan.

Step 4: Decide and Enroll

You’ll be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare (Parts A and B) if you are getting Social Security benefits when you turn 65. You’ll get your Medicare card in the mail several months before your birthday.

Otherwise, you may enroll yourself at your local Social Security office or at Medicare.gov. Certain late enrollment penalties may apply if you miss or delay enrolling during your IEP.

You might consider enrolling in just Part A if you are working past age 65 and have employer coverage. Your employer plan must meet certain requirements to be “creditable.” Talk with your benefits manager about how your employer plan might work with Medicare.

You have other choices if you enroll in both Part A and Part B. You may:

  • Add a Part D prescription drug plan to Original Medicare
  • Add a Medicare supplement insurance plan to Original Medicare
  • Join a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) instead

Medicare’s online Plan Finder can help you find and compare plans offered where you live. You may also contact the specific insurance companies for more information about plans you’re interested in.


Enrolling in Medicare is a big life change. You may feel overwhelmed with information and choices.

Try to start early and work on enrollment one step at a time. It may help you feel more confident about making a decision. You may contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program for free counseling if you want help.

Related Content

Medicare: How to Put the Parts Together

How to Get Dental and Vision Care Coverage When You Have Medicare

Who Will Pay More for Medicare Part B in 2016 and Why


For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


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