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If you’re planning your retirement, you may be wondering just when your Medicare coverage begins. In some cases, your Medicare coverage starts automatically. In others, you may have to sign up, or you might decide to delay part of your Medicare coverage.
If you decide to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan, a Medicare prescription drug plan, or a Medicare Supplement insurance plan, we’ll get to your coverage start dates later in this article.
The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is when you are first eligible for Medicare coverage. For most people, this is a seven-month period. It starts three months before you turn age 65, includes your birthday month, and keeps going for three months after your birthday month. Many people are automatically enrolled at this time.
Your Medicare coverage generally starts on the first day of your birthday month. If your birthday falls on the first day of the month, your Medicare coverage starts the first day of the previous month.
If you qualify for Medicare because of a disability or illness, in most cases your IEP is also seven months. It starts three months before your 25th month of receiving Social Security disability benefits, includes the 25th month, and keeps going for three more months. You generally have to receive disability benefits for 24 months in a row to qualify. Read more about getting Medicare if you have a disability.
Your Medicare coverage typically starts the 25th month you receive disability benefits.
Typically, you’re automatically enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) if you’re already receiving Social Security retirement benefits when you turn 65 or qualify by disability.
If you’re not automatically enrolled in Medicare, the date Medicare coverage begins depends on when you enroll in Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and/or Part B (medical insurance).
If you weren’t automatically enrolled in Original Medicare, or if you decided to delay enrollment, you can generally enroll during the General Enrollment Period. It runs January 1 through March 31 each year. Your Medicare coverage begins July 1 of the year you enroll.
If you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, your Medicare coverage usually begins the first of the month after you apply for Medicare. There may be various reasons you may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period – for example, if you lose other health coverage.
If you sign up during your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period, your Medicare Advantage coverage usually starts at the same time your Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) coverage would start, as described above. For example, if you enroll in Medicare Advantage during the three-month period before you turn 65, your plan would start coverage the first day of your birthday month.
If you sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan during the Annual Election Period (October 15 through December 7 annually), your plan coverage usually starts January 1 of the next year. The same is true if you change plans.
If you switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (January 1 through March 31), generally your new coverage starts the first of the month after the plan gets your request.
Your coverage start date will generally be the same as for a Medicare Advantage plan as described above. However, the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period doesn’t always apply to stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drugs plans.
Details of your coverage start date might vary. Call your Medicare Supplement insurance plan for information.
If you would like to learn more about your Medicare coverage options in your area, you’re welcome to use the plan finder tool on this page. Just enter your zip code and click the button.
eHealth's Medicare website is operated by eHealthInsurance Services, Inc., a licensed health insurance agency doing business as eHealth. The purpose of this site is the solicitation of insurance. Contact may be made by an insurance agent/producer or insurance company. eHealth and Medicare supplement insurance plans are not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. government or the federal Medicare program. We offer plans from a number of insurance companies.