When Will My Medicare Start?

When Will My Medicare Start?

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The date your Medicare will start varies based on when you enroll and why you're receiving Medicare. Most Americans start receiving it the month they turn 65, as the majority of Americans are enrolled in Medicare due to their age. But some people are eligible for Medicare in other situations, so different enrollment rules apply. For example, if you qualify for Medicare due to a disability, your Medicare starts after you've received Social Security disability payments for 24 months. Medicare always starts on the first of the month.

It's important to apply for Medicare at the right time based on your personal situation so that your Medicare starts when you need it, without coverage gaps or penalties.

When does Medicare start?

Your Medicare start date depends on the reason you qualify for Medicare, as well as when you apply. Regardless of the way you qualify, Medicare groups the times and circumstances in which you can enroll into three enrollment periods:

  • Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): The period surrounding the date you are first eligible for Medicare.
  • Special Enrollment Period (SEP): A time when you can enroll after the IEP without facing late enrollment penalties. The SEP is normally used when you turn 65 but want to delay Medicare while you still have employer coverage for yourself or through your spouse.
  • General Enrollment Period (GEP): A set time each year when anyone who is eligible for Medicare can apply, regardless of the reason. You'll typically pay late enrollment penalties ? if you enroll during the GEP.

Your Medicare start date is based on why you qualify — whether it's age, disability, kidney failure or a chronic health condition — and which enrollment period you use when you apply. All three Medicare enrollment periods can be used for most Medicare application scenarios. One exception is that there is no Special Enrollment Period for enrollees with kidney failure, also known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD).


Age

Disability

ESRD

ALS

  • Triggering event: Age 65
  • Medicare start date (IEP):
    • The month you turn 65
    • Between one and six months following the month you turn 65
  • Medicare start date (SEP):
    • On the first day of the month you enroll
    • On the first day of any of the following three months of your choice
    • The first of the month following the month you sign up
  • Medicare start date (GEP):
    • July 1 of the same year

Age

  • Triggering event: Age 65
  • Medicare start date (IEP):
    • The month you turn 65
    • Between one and six months following the month you turn 65
  • Medicare start date (SEP):
    • On the first day of the month you enroll
    • On the first day of any of the following three months of your choice
    • The first of the month following the month you sign up
  • Medicare start date (GEP):
    • July 1 of the same year

Disability

  • Triggering event: 25th month of receiving Social Security disability payments
  • Medicare start date (IEP):
    • The 25th month of disability
    • Up to three months after the sign-up date
  • Medicare start date (SEP):
    • Usually the month after Social Security gets your request
  • Medicare start date (GEP):
    • July 1 of the same year

ESRD

  • Triggering event: Fifth month of receiving dialysis treatments
  • Medicare start date (IEP):
    • Immediately upon enrollment, if you sign up when first eligible
  • Medicare start date (SEP):
    • There is no SEP for ESRD Medicare
  • Medicare start date (GEP):
    • July 1 of the same year

ALS

  • Triggering event: First month of receiving Social Security disability benefits
  • Medicare start date (IEP):
    • As soon as Social Security disability benefits begin
  • Medicare start date (SEP):
    • Usually the month after Social Security gets your request
  • Medicare start date (GEP):
    • July 1 of the same year

Understanding when to apply based on your situation can help get your Medicare started on time so you avoid potential late enrollment fees or gaps in health coverage.

When does Medicare start due to age?

Medicare typically starts the 1st of the month you turn 65.

You're automatically enrolled in Medicare at age 65 if you are getting Social Security benefits. If you are not receiving Social Security, you must sign up manually, and your Medicare will start after your application is processed and approved.

  • Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): If you enroll in Medicare as soon as you turn 65, whether that happens automatically or you sign up manually, you are joining under the Medicare IEP. This period begins three months before you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65 and ends three months after you turn 65.
  • Special Enrollment Period (SEP): You'll use the SEP if you are eligible based on age but enroll later due to having employer health insurance. If you sign up while you still have group coverage or during the first month after coverage ends, your Medicare can start either on the first day of the month you enroll or on the first day of any of the following three months of your choice. If you sign up within the following seven months, Medicare will start the first of the month following the month you sign up.
  • General Enrollment Period (GEP): If you enroll during a GEP, your Medicare starts July 1 of that year. You may pay late enrollment penalties.

When does Medicare start after disability?

Medicare for disability generally starts after you've received Social Security disability benefits for two years.

If you're not enrolled automatically after 24 months and need to apply, your Medicare will start based on when you apply.

  • Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): In most cases, you're enrolled in Medicare automatically after you receive Social Security disability benefits for two straight years or 24 months. If you enroll manually, you can apply up through your 28th month of disability payments. Your Medicare will start after your application is processed and approved, which can take up to three months.
  • Special Enrollment Period (SEP): You have a Special Enrollment Period if you're disabled and lost employer coverage you had yourself or through a family member. Your Medicare start date will vary based on when you enroll.
  • General Enrollment Period (GEP): If you missed enrolling through an IEP or SEP, you can enroll during the GEP to start Medicare on July 1. You may pay late enrollment penalties.

When does Medicare start for ESRD?

If you enroll when you're first eligible, your Medicare due to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) starts right away.

You're usually eligible for Medicare after the fourth month of kidney dialysis.

  • Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): If you have kidney failure, also called ESRD, you're not automatically enrolled in Medicare and must apply manually. The IEP for ESRD patients depends on the type of treatment. For example, patients receiving dialysis at home are eligible for Medicare starting with the first month of treatment, if training requirements are met.
  • Special Enrollment Period (SEP): There is no SEP for ESRD Medicare.
  • General Enrollment Period (GEP): If you don't enroll in Medicare when you are first eligible (during the IEP), you must wait for a GEP and may pay late enrollment penalties. Your Medicare would start on July 1.

Medicare enrollment due to ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease

For ALS patients, Medicare coverage starts as soon as Social Security benefits kick in.

You must be receiving Social Security benefits to qualify for Medicare with a disability or chronic condition, but unlike with other disabilities, there is no waiting period for ALS patients.

  • Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): Medicare typically begins as soon as Social Security benefits take effect.
  • Special Enrollment Period (SEP): Once you are approved for Social Security benefits and Medicare, your Medicare starts right away. If you continue working after your ALS diagnosis, you could enroll in Medicare under the SEP when your employer coverage ends.
  • General Enrollment Period (GEP): If you wait for a GEP, your Medicare starts on July 1 of the year you apply. You may pay late enrollment penalties.

Frequently asked questions

Does Medicare automatically start at age 65?

Medicare automatically starts at age 65 if you contributed to Social Security while working and received benefits for at least four months. If you don't qualify for Medicare by paying into Social Security, you can buy it.

Can I get Medicare at age 62?

You can get Medicare at age 62 only if you are diagnosed with a qualifying disability, ALS or kidney failure (ESRD). If you are eligible based on your age, Medicare starts at age 65.

What's the earliest you can start Medicare?

If you are eligible due to age, the earliest you can start Medicare is when you turn 65. You can start Medicare at any time if you are receiving Social Security and have a qualifying disability.

Does Medicare start the first day of the month you turn 65?

Medicare generally starts the first day of the month you turn 65 if you're enrolled automatically or you apply during the first part of your Initial Enrollment Period. If your birthday falls on the 1st, Medicare will start the month before your birth month.

Methodology

Information on Medicare enrollment periods, enrollment qualifications, triggering events, eligibility and start dates was obtained from Medicare.gov, CMS.gov, SSA.gov and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at HHS.gov.

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