For most Americans, enrollment in Medicare is automatic around the time you turn 65. If you’re already receiving retirement benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board, you will automatically start receiving Medicare benefits on the first day of the month you turn 65.
But what if you’re still working, or you don’t want to sign up for Medicare right away? Is it mandatory to go on Medicare when you turn 65? This page will help you understand your options.
If you are already receiving Social Security retirement benefits, you will automatically get Medicare at age 65 if you qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A. If you have to buy Medicare Part A, you will need to sign up manually online or by contacting your local Social Security office.
You’ll know if you were automatically enrolled because you’ll receive a “Welcome to Medicare” package in the mail. This package includes details about Medicare Part A and Part B, along with your Medicare card. It will also help you answer the question, “How much will I have to pay for Medicare when I turn 65?” If you are uncertain or have questions about your Medicare eligility, you can contact Social Security direction, either via phone, online or visiting a local SSA office.
You have the option to reject Medicare Part B if you don’t want it. However, if you change your mind and enroll later, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty.
Do you have to sign up for Medicare when you turn 65? Unless you are covered by an employer group or union health insurance plan, if you don’t and enroll later, you will have to pay higher premiums. So while you don’t “have” to sign up, it will likely cost you more if you delay.
If you’re not automatically enrolled and you also decide not to enroll for Medicare during your initial enrollment period near your 65th birthday, you won’t have coverage. If you change your mind, you will need to manually enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B by contacting your local Social Security office. And you may have to pay higher premiums if you didn’t enroll when you were first eligible. Again, unless you were covered by your employer or union group coverage.
If you qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A, you can enroll in that coverage anytime. However, for Medicare Part B, you can only enroll during specific enrollment periods. The General Enrollment Period (GEP) for Medicare occurs every January - March 31 and is an opportunity for individuals to apply for Medicare Part A or B if not automatically enrolled in Medicare or missed their Initial Enrollment Period. Enrollments during the GEP are effective July 1. If you don’t get Part B when you are first eligible, you could have to pay a late enrollment penalty.
If you have medical coverage under a group health insurance plan offered by an employer or a spouse’s employer, you generally do not have to sign up for Medicare at age 65. You are able to delay your enrollment until your group coverage ends, without paying a penalty. Medicare gives you a special enrollment period that lasts eight months after the group coverage ends. The exception is for employers with less than 20 employees, so check with your employer or Social Security because if you don’t enroll in medicare, your employer might pay less or not at all.
You can also sign up for Medicare Parts A and B while you’re still working, if you choose to. As long as you were previously covered by a group health insurance plan, you won’t have to pay a penalty.
If you have Medicare Part B and return to work after the age of 65, you can drop Part B, as long as you have coverage under your employer’s group plan. When the group plan coverage ends, you can sign up for Part B again without paying a penalty.
Knowing exactly when to enroll in Medicare can be confusing, especially if you’re still working or not receiving retirement benefits. Also, it’s important to understand all of your options and decide whether Original Medicare is right for you or if you want a different plan.
The best way to find out is to talk to a licensed insurance agent. Contact us to find and compare plans today!