Your Initial Enrollment Period – the time you can enroll in Medicare – is seven months long. It starts three months before your 65th birthday on the first of the month. For example, if you were born on June 2nd, your initial enrollment period starts on March 1st.
However, if you were born on the first of a month, Medicare has a special consideration. Medicare treats your birthday the same as if you were born the month earlier and your initial enrollment period shifts.
For instance, if your birthday is June 1st, your “birth month” would start a month earlier, on May 1st.
The Initial Enrollment Period also includes the month when you were born and the following three months. So, if you were born sometime in June, your enrollment period would end on September 30th.
If you sign up during this enrollment period, your health insurance should begin on the first of the next month.
Before 2023, Medicare would delay coverage if you signed up in the last three months of your initial enrollment period.
However, as of January 1, 2023, if you enroll in the month of your 65th birthday or sometime in the three months after, your coverage will begin the first day of the following month after you sign up. This change removes the penalties for signing up “late,” and it helps Medicare applicants get their coverage sooner.
If you are already signed up for Medicare Part A or Parts A and B, you will have fixed enrollment periods when you can make changes to your Medicare plan and opt to join a Medicare Advantage Plan, also known as Part C. This type of plan combines the benefits of both Parts A and B, and is offered by private health insurance companies that are approved by the Medicare program.
These fixed enrollment periods are:
- Open Enrollment Period (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7, 2023): If you already have Medicare Parts A and B, you may enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during this time. If you already have Medicare Advantage, you may drop your Advantage plan or switch to a new one during this period.
- General Enrollment Period (Jan. 1 – March 31, 2024): If you have Part A, you can get Part B and, if you wish to, join a Medicare Advantage Plan. When you enroll during this period, your coverage will begin on the first of the month right after you apply.