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Is it mandatory to sign up for Medicare at age 65?

Do you have to sign up for Medicare at age 65?

If you’re getting ready to turn 65, signing up for Medicare is probably on your mind. But is it mandatory to sign up for Medicare at age 65?

While signing up for Medicare at age 65 is not required if you’re still working and are covered by your employer’s health insurance plan, you can still receive Medicare benefits and should consider enrolling. Signing up for Medicare at age 65 (or any point after) is not technically required, but not enrolling during your Initial Enrollment Period can risk a lapse in health insurance coverage and a late enrollment penalty. In this article, we’ll help you understand the process for enrolling in Medicare at 65 and what happens if you don’t sign up during your initial enrollment period.

When should I apply for Medicare?

The seven-month time frame in which you can first enroll in Medicare is called your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). This begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after. In addition to your Initial Enrollment Period, you can also compare your options for coverage and enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) from October 15-December 7 each year. Once enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can then make a one-time plan change from January 1-March 31 each year during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period from January 1-March 31 each year.

There’s also the Medicare Special Enrollment period, which takes place when certain life changes (like losing employer coverage, being diagnosed with a chronic condition, moving to a new city or state, or moving in or out of long term care) occur. This gives you the opportunity to make changes to your existing Medicare Advantage plan and/or Medicare Prescription drug plan.

Should you keep your employer coverage if you’re still working?

You may choose to enroll in Medicare while still receiving employer health insurance coverage. The main factor you need to consider when receiving both Medicare and employer health insurance is who is the primary and secondary payer—basically, who pays first for your health coverage and who pays the remaining costs. If your company employs more than 20 people, Medicare is the secondary payer. For companies with less than 20 employees, Medicare is the primary payer.

What should you do if you do not sign up for Medicare at age 65?

There are a couple scenarios that will play out if you don’t sign up for Medicare during your IEP, depending on your reason for delaying enrollment.

  • If you don’t sign up because you are still receiving health insurance coverage (i.e., through your employer), then you can delay your enrollment and you won’t be subject to any late enrollment fees
  • If you don’t sign up during your IEP but are not enrolled in health insurance, you will be subject to a Medicare late enrollment penalty when you do eventually enroll.

Have questions about when you should sign up for Medicare? Let SelectQuote help you make the right decision for you.

Knowing the right time to sign up for Medicare can be complicated, but we’re here to help. Our SelectQuote experienced licensed insurance agents can help answer any questions about Medicare enrollment periods so you can stay protected, avoiding any late enrollment fees or lapses in health insurance coverage.

We do the shopping. You do the saving.

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