Turning 65? When to Sign Up for Medicare and Social Security
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You become eligible for Medicare based on age when you turn 65, but you can sign up beforehand to ease the transition.
Your Medicare initial enrollment period generally starts three months before you turn 65. Signing up before your birthday allows you to consider your coverage options and get everything ready before your benefits kick in.
You have more choices for when to start receiving Social Security benefits, but you should still sign up a few months before you want those monthly payouts to begin.
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When to sign up for Medicare before turning 65
Medicare initial enrollment period
The span of months around your 65th birthday when you’re eligible to sign up for Medicare is called the initial enrollment period.
For most people, the initial enrollment period starts three months before the month you turn 65 and lasts for seven months. So if your birthday is July 3, for example, you could sign up starting April 1, and the period would end on the last day of October.
If your birthday is on the first of the month, your initial enrollment period is a little different. It’s still seven months long, but it starts four months before your birthday month and runs through the end of the second month after you turn 65. So if your birthday is July 1, for example, you could sign up starting March 1, and the initial enrollment period would end on the last day of September.
If you sign up before your birthday month, your Medicare benefits start the month you turn 65. If you sign up during or after the month of your birthday, your Medicare benefits start the month after you sign up.
What happens if you miss the initial enrollment period?
If you missed your initial enrollment period, you have another chance to sign up every year during the general enrollment period, which runs from Jan. 1 to March 31. Your coverage starts the month after you sign up. Depending on your circumstances and which parts of Medicare you’re signing up for, you might face late enrollment penalties.
You may also have other opportunities to sign up if you qualify for a special enrollment period. Special enrollment periods generally occur when you move or lose other health coverage.
If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits when you turn 65, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare. When this happens, you get Medicare Part A and Part B starting on the first day of the month of your 65th birthday (or the month before, if your birthday is on the first of the month). Your Medicare Part B premiums are automatically deducted from your Social Security payment.
You’ll still need to act if you want to make any of these additions or changes to your Medicare coverage:
Adding Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.
Adding a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plan to cover out-of-pocket costs.
Signing up for Medicare Advantage, a bundled alternative to Medicare Part A and B sold by private companies.
When to sign up for Social Security
You won’t necessarily start receiving Social Security and Medicare benefits at the same time. Whereas most people get Medicare at age 65, you have more control over when to start your Social Security benefits.
You can apply for Social Security benefits up to four months before you want the benefits to start. The earliest you can qualify for age-based Social Security benefits is when you turn 62, so the earliest you could apply would be four months before your 62nd birthday. However, you might want to wait.
The full retirement age to receive Social Security is 67 for people born in 1960 or later. That’s when you’re entitled to 100% of your Social Security benefits. You can choose to start receiving permanently reduced benefits at a younger age, or you can defer past age 67 to increase your Social Security benefits.
Estimate your Social Security retirement benefits
Your actual benefit may be lower or higher than estimate made with this calculator, because it does not take into account your actual earnings history.
We assume you have earnings every year until you begin receiving Social Security benefits. If you had several years of noncovered employment or your earnings changed significantly from year to year, this calculator will overestimate or underestimate your benefit.