How and when to apply for Medicare
Learn about the parts of Medicare and how and when to sign up if you are in your 60s or if you have a disability or qualifying illness.
Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 and over. If you are under 65, you may be eligible to get Medicare earlier if you have a disability, End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
How Medicare works
Medicare is divided into four parts:
- Medicare Part A is insurance for hospitalization, home or skilled nursing, and hospice.
- Medicare Part B is medical insurance.
- Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans) is a private insurance option for covering hospital and medical costs.
- Medicare Part D covers prescription medications.
Enrolling in Medicare in your 60s
There are several ways to enroll in Medicare:
- If you begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits between age 62 and up to 4 months before turning 65, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B when you turn 65.
- If you apply for Social Security 3 months before you turn 65 or later, you can sign up for Medicare when you apply for Social Security.
- The Initial Enrollment Period to sign up for Medicare begins 3 months before you turn 65 and ends 3 months after the month you turn 65--a total of 7 months. You may have to pay a penalty if you miss your Initial Enrollment Period.
- If you are not ready to receive Social Security benefits at 65 because you are still working, you can apply online for Medicare only. Or you may be able to wait until you retire to sign up during a special enrollment period.
LAST UPDATED: December 6, 2023