When should I sign up for Medicare?

Generally, we advise people to sign up for Medicare when they’re first eligible to avoid a gap in coverage and/or late enrollment penalties. For most people, Medicare eligibility starts three months before turning 65 and ends three months after turning 65. If you’re already getting Social Security benefits, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B (you don’t need to apply). However, because you must pay a premium for Part B coverage, you have the option of turning it down. You’ll get your Medicare card about three months before you turn 65. (Note: Residents of Puerto Rico or foreign countries won’t get Part B automatically. They must sign up for this benefit.)

If you don’t get Medicare automatically, here are some ways to sign up*:

  • Online (at Social Security) – You’ll need to create your secure my Social Security account to sign up for Medicare or apply for benefits.
  • Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. TTY users can call 1-800-325-0778.
  • Contact your local Social Security office.
  • If you or your spouse worked for a railroad, call the Railroad Retirement Board at 1-877-772-5772.

*When you sign up for Medicare, you can also apply for Social Security benefits at the same time if you want.

Note: If you don’t sign up for Medicare when you’re first eligible, you’ll have to wait until the General Enrollment Period (January 1-March 31 each year) to sign up, and you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty. Learn more about when Medicare coverage starts including special enrollment periods.

For more on Medicare enrollment and eligibility, visit Medicare.gov.

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