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When Can I get Medicare Benefits?

For most people, the 1st of the month that you turn 65 years old is when Medicare becomes active. If your birthday is the 1st of the month, your Medicare starts the previous month. However, for those who are past their 65th birthday and have had their insurance through their employer, they have the option to begin Medicare when they choose to leave their employer plan. Also, if you are receiving social security disability you are also eligible for Medicare (Disability) no matter your age. Medicare Disability kicks in on the 25th month after you are Social Security eligible.

How Do I Apply For Medicare?

If you are receiving Social Security retirement benefits when you turn 65, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare and you can expect to receive your Medicare benefits card about three months before you turn 65. If you are not receiving your Social Security retirement benefit when you turn 65, you will have to apply for Medicare either via online through the Social Security Administration's website ( or by going to a local social security office.

Turning 65 or coming onto Medicare?
  • Sign up by going to a Social Security office or by logging onto You can do so up to 3 months prior to the month you are turning 65 or plan to retire. For example, your birthday is in June, your Medicare will be effective June 1 and you can sign up for Medicare anytime after March 1.
  • Once you have received your Medicare card, you can sign up for a Medigap/Supplement Plan, Medicare Advantage Plan or Drug Plan.
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  • It is a good rule is to do this as soon as you are eligible. The insurance is approved in a few days, however Medicare can take up to 8 weeks to process applications and issue cards.

I have health insurance already through an employer. Do I have to enroll in (and pay for) Medicare?

It depends on what kind of health insurance you have. If you have insurance through your employer or your spouse's employer and you are still working, you may not be required to enroll in Medicare as long as the company sponsoring your coverage has at least 20 employees. In this case, you'll have a special enrollment period after you (or your spouse) retire or leave that employer. If your insurance is through an employer you've already retired from, you have to sign up at 65. If your employer has less then 20 employees, you have to sign up for Medicare A and B when you turn 65. If you are required (ie don't have credible coverage) to sign up for Medicare Part B, and don't, you'll face a permanent penalty of 10% of the Medicare Part B premium for every year you were supposed to be enrolled but didn't.