Eligibility and Enrollment in Original Medicare

When Am I Eligible for Enrollment?

Most people are first eligible to enroll in ORIGINAL MEDICARE when they turn 65. Your seven-month-long “Initial Enrollment Period” begins three months before the month you turn 65 and ends three months after. You must be a US citizen or legal resident who has lived in the US for at least five years in a row. Every year after your Initial Enrollment Period, Medicare offers an “Annual Election Period,” from October 15–December 7, when you can add, drop, or switch your enrollment for the following plan year. Medicare also offers “Special Enrollment Periods” when you can make enrollment changes if certain circumstances change (for example, if you lose employer coverage).

What’s the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?

In 2019, a new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period will run from January 1 – March 31 every year. If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll have a one-time opportunity to:
  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare, Part A and Part B
  • Sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan (if you return to Original Medicare). Most Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage already. Usually you can’t enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug plan if you already have a Medicare Advantage plan, but there are some situations where you can. Call your Medicare Advantage plan if you have questions.
  • Drop your stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan

How Do I Enroll?

When you become eligible, begin the enrollment process with the Social Security Administration:

  • If you will start collecting Social Security benefits when you turn 65, Social Security should enroll you in Original Medicare (Parts A and B) automatically. They will mail your Medicare card to you three months before your 65th birthday.
  • If you don’t receive your Social Security card or you haven’t enrolled in Social Security, visit or call your local Social Security office or go to the SocialSecurity.gov website.

DID YOU KNOW?
Financial Help Is Available

There are several state and federal programs that provide assistance with Medicare costs for Part A, Part B, and Part D coverage. Eligibility is determined by your income and assets and varies by state. You can contact the Social Security office by going online, calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY/TDD: 1-800-325-0778) or visiting your local Social Security office to see if you are eligible.

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