As a 65 year old, U.S. citizen, you’re not technically required to enroll in Medicare. Nonetheless, if you choose not to enroll and decide you need Medicare later, you may pay penalties. Medicare can charge an additional 10% of the standard premium, for double the amount of years you were not enrolled. For example: if you wait 3 years, after your Initial Enrollment Period, the additional fee will apply for 6 years.
The Initial Enrollment Period is essentially 7 months. It begins 3 months before your 65th birthday, includes your birthday month, and continues for the next three months. Enrollment anytime beyond this period will be considered late. If you miss the initial enrollment, you must wait for the General Enrollment Period which is January 1-March 31 of each year.
Medicare has several programs or Parts. Initially the two main Parts to consider are: Part A, Hospital Insurance and Part B, Medical Insurance. Depending on your circumstance, you may be automatically enrolled in both Parts A and B, or you might have to enroll yourself. Many stipulations may or may not trigger automatic enrollment. Your working status, if you have other insurance, and if you’re receiving Social Security benefits, are all conditions of how and when you enroll.
An important enrollment matter is whether you are working and have a group health plan on your 65th birthday. If you are still working and covered by other insurance, on your 65th, you can wait to enroll in Medicare. However, as soon as you stop working the enrollment period, once again, becomes limited.
If you are new to Medicare, begin researching and considering all your options before your 65th birthday.