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What Age Does Medicare Start?

Christian Worstell by Christian Worstell    |    Published Oct 03, 2019    |    Reviewed by John Krahnert

Medicare starts at age 65 for most people. Many people are automatically enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B).

However, some people need to sign up for Part A and Part B. Learn about Medicare eligibility and requirements. You could be eligible for Medicare before 65 if you have a qualifying disability.

Medicare enrollment form

Eligibility for Medicare and Enrollment

You will most likely automatically get Medicare and will receive your red, white and blue Medicare card in the mail if any of the following apply to you:

  • You are already receiving benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)
  • You are under 65 and have certain disabilities
  • You have ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • You live in Puerto Rico and get benefits from Social Security or the RRB

You must manually enroll for Medicare if any of the following apply to you:

  • You are 65 and aren’t getting Social Security or RRB benefits
  • You qualify for Medicare due to End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)
  • You live in Puerto Rico and want to enroll in Part B

Additionally, you may be eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A if:

  • You or your spouse receive or are eligible to receive Social Security benefits
  • You or your spouse receive or are eligible for railroad retirement benefits
  • You or your spouse paid taxes to Medicare by working long enough in a government job
  • You are the dependent parent of a child who has died and is fully insured

If you’re 65 and don’t meet these criteria, you may be required to pay a premium for your Medicare Part A benefits, which could be as high as $437 per month in 2019.

Qualifying for Medicare Before Age 65

As mentioned above, you may qualify for Medicare coverage before age 65 if you have certain health issues. Medicare benefits may be available to you if:

  • You have received Social Security disability benefits for 24 months, or you’ve been eligible for those benefits
  • You have Lou Gehrig’s Disease and receive Social Security benefits
  • You face permanent kidney failure and have been a recipient of a kidney transplant or maintenance dialysis
  • The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board offers you a disability pension
  • You’re either a widow(er) or child, age 50 and above, of someone who held a government job long enough and paid Medicare taxes, and you meet the Social Security disability program’s requirements

When and How to Sign Up for Medicare Coverage

When you first become eligible for Medicare, you have a 7-month Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) to sign up for Part A and/or Part B.

Your IEP starts three months before the month that you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65 and extends for 3 months after the month you turn 65.

NOTE: Your IEP is extremely important, because if you are eligible to enroll in Medicare but don’t do it during your IEP, you could have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you are covered by Part B.

If you happen to miss your IEP and aren’t eligible for a Special Enrollment Period, you can sign up for Medicare during the General Enrollment Period (GEP), which occurs between January 1 and March 31 each year.

Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs) may be available to those who are covered under a current employer’s group health plan and for other select reasons.

Signing up for Medicare can be done online through Social Security or at your local Social Security office.

Senior man prepares to go swimming at pool

Other Medicare Benefits Options

Aside from Part A and Part B, there are other types of Medicare coverage you should know about. They are Medicare Part C, Medicare Part D and Medicare Supplement plans.

    • Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, allows you to receive Medicare coverage through a private insurer. These private policies may include some additional benefits beyond what are offered by Original Medicare.

    • Medicare Part D adds prescription drug coverage to Original Medicare through a freestanding, private drug plan. Medicare Advantage plans may include drug coverage, too.

    • Medicare Supplement Insurance plans can help cover expenses that come with Original Medicare, such as coinsurance, copayments and deductibles.

If you want to explore your health insurance coverage options, be sure to compare Medicare Supplement Insurance plans to see the types of basic benefits that are available.

Find the Medigap plan that best fits your health care costs, and connect with a licensed insurance agent today to learn more. 


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