How does a person sign up for Medicare?

Registering for Medicare is a straightforward process, but different plans have different enrollment periods.

A person who receives Social Security before age 65 will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B the month of the 65th birthday. Three months before turning 65, he or she will receive a Medicare card in the mail. Instructions for opting out of Part B are on the card.

Those who aren't receiving Social Security benefits before age 65 may apply for those benefits and Medicaid at the Social Security Web site. To apply for Medicare only, call 1-800-772-1213.

There are several enrollment periods for Part B:

Initial Enrollment Period-Begins three months before 65th birthday. Lasts for seven months.

General Enrollment Period -Jan. 1 to March 31 of each year. Coverage begins July 1.

Special Enrollment Period-Those who receive group health coverage through work, a union, or a spouse may delay enrolling in Part B without incurring the 10 percent penalty. People may enroll in Part B at any time while covered by a group health plan, or during the eight months after the coverage ends.

General enrollment in the prescription drug plan lasts from Nov. 15 to May 15 each year.

Those under age 65 who also are disabled or suffer from end-stage renal disease are eligible for Medicare if they have received Social Security benefits for at least 24 months. To apply, call 1-800-772-1213.

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

You can enroll in Medicare when you file for retirement or disability benefits. You can also just apply for Medicare separately online at or at an appointment at your local Social Security office. You can contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213. Do apply within three months of your 65th birthday (no matter what) or some Social Security benefits may be waived. That means you could lose them forever, I’ve been told. Forever!!


If your retirement benefits come from the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), you will need to call your local RRB office or 1-877-772-5772 with any questions you have about Medicare.


However, for those of you who are already receiving Social Security benefits, you have been automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, but you can turn down Part B since you need to pay a premium. You will need to find another way to pay for those services covered under Part B, like how to pay many of your providers such as doctors.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.