Knowing when you should enroll for Medicare is important in order to maintain coverage and avoid penalties. There are three periods during which a person can enroll for Medicare:
Initial Enrollment Period: A person can first sign up for Medicare during the Initial Enrollment Period, which is a seven-month period that begins three months prior to the month of their 65th birthday. For example, if you turn 65 in April, you can sign up from January to July.
Special Enrollment Period: Special enrollment is for individuals who are working and covered under a group health plan with 20 or more employees and have a change in coverage. This “special” period lasts 8 months from either the time employment ends OR when the employer sponsored health insurance coverage ends (not including COBRA coverage).
General Enrollment Period: There is also an annual General Enrollment Period from Jan 1st – March 31st, which can be used if you do not sign up when you’re first eligible or if you are not eligible for the Special Enrollment Period.
Late penalties may apply if sign up is not completed during either the initial or special enrollment periods discussed above. For instance, the monthly Part B premium will increase by 10% for each 12-month period that a person could have had Part B coverage but did not take it. This increased premium will apply for as long as Part B coverage is in place.