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Signing Up for Medicare When You’re Still Covered by an Employer’s Health Plan

Q I want to sign up for Medicare Part A when I turn 65 on October 11, but I plan to delay enrolling in Part B because I work at a large company with great health insurance. How do I sign up for Part A, and when does it take effect? And how do I eventually enroll in Part B?

A You have a seven-month window to enroll in Part A, which is free and covers hospital services. The enrollment period begins three months before the month you turn 65 and ends three months after your birthday month.

You can enroll in Medicare online at or visit your local Social Security office, even if you’re not ready to receive Social Security retirement benefits yet. Go to the Apply for Benefits page to sign up for retirement or Medicare benefits. Also see the SSA’s Checklist For Online Medicare Application for a list of information you’ll need to complete the application. (Those who are already receiving Social Security benefits are automatically enrolled in Medicare at age 65. They will receive a Medicare card in the mail three months before their coverage starts, which is the first day of the month of their 65th birthday.)

I always recommend you take advantage of your insurance agents knowledge and guidance when it comes to Medicare dates and rules. It can be confusing and your agent will most likely, prefer to be involved. If you are looking for an agent to assist you, give my team a call at RCB & Associates at 616-233-9050.

The timing of your enrollment in Part A will determine when coverage kicks in. If you sign up before the month you turn 65, your coverage will take effect on the first day of your birthday month—October 1, in your case. (If your birthday had been on the first of the month, your coverage would take effect the first day of the previous month, or September 1.)

Sign up in the month you turn 65 and your coverage will take effect on the first day of the next month. If you sign up one month after your birthday month, your coverage will take effect two months after enrollment. Enroll two or three months after your birthday month and the coverage will take effect three months after the month you sign up.

Because you have health insurance through a large employer, you don’t have to sign up yet for Medicare Part A or Part B. Most people sign up for Part A at 65 because it is free. But many people who have coverage through a large employer delay signing up for Part B, which carries a premium and covers outpatient care, such as doctors’ visits and tests. The same goes if you’re covered under a spouse’s workplace plan.

(However, if the employer has fewer than 20 employees, Medicare will be your primary coverage at 65, so in that case you usually need to sign up for Part A and Part B even if you have coverage at work.)

You will need to enroll in Part B within eight months of losing your coverage at work when you leave your job (or when you lose coverage through a spouse’s employer).

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