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Medicare Minute: New to Medicare

If you or a loved one will soon be eligible for Medicare, join us for this Medicare Minute! We’ll go over all the basics you should know—from enrollment periods to coverage choices and beyond.

Some people are automatically enrolled in Medicare. For example, if you are already receiving retirement benefits from Social Security when you become Medicare-eligible, or if you’ve been collecting Social Security Disability Insurance for two years. If you are automatically enrolled, you should receive a package in the mail with your Medicare insurance card telling you so. Otherwise, there are three times to enroll in Parts A and B:

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): The three months before, the month of, and the three months after your 65th birthday.

Special Enrollment Period (SEP): Allows you to delay Medicare enrollment without owing a late enrollment penalty. You may qualify for an SEP if:

  • You or your spouse (or sometimes another family member) are still working, and you are covered by the employer health insurance. Note that you shouldn’t delay Medicare enrollment if this employer coverage pays secondary to Medicare.
  • You have experienced other exceptional circumstances, like losing Medicaid coverage, being released from incarceration, being misinformed by an employer, or being impacted by an emergency or disaster.

General Enrollment Period (GEP): Every year from January 1 through March 31. You may owe a late enrollment penalty and face gaps in coverage if you use the GEP.

Download the full “New to Medicare” handout by the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). 

The Medicare Rights Center is the author of portions of the content in these materials but is not responsible for any content not authored by the Medicare Rights Center. This document was supported, in part, by grant numbers 90SATC0002 and 90MPRC0002 from the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy. [April 2024]

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