People automatically receive a Medicare card in the mail from the Social Security Administration if either one of the following is true:
- He/she is 65 and began receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits before turning 65.
- He/she became disabled and had been receiving Social Security or Railroad disability benefits for at least 24 consecutive months.
People must take the initiative to enroll themselves if one of the following is true:
- He/she has not applied for Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits before age 65.
- He/she was a government employee.
- He/she has End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD.)
If enrollment is not automatic, a person is responsible for filing a Medicare Enrollment Application with the Social Security Administration during his/her initial 7-month enrollment period. The 7-month enrollment period begins three months prior to the month of the person`s 65th birthday. It ends three months after the month of the person`s 65th birthday. To enroll in Medicare, contact the local Social Security office or call 800-772-1213.
If a person does not sign up for Medicare Part B during his/her 7-month enrollment period, he/she must wait until the next general open enrollment period which runs from January 1st to March 31st of each year.
Coverage after late enrollment will not start until July 1st of the year, therefore, a person could lose up to 18 months of coverage for failing to sign up on time.
Late enrollees must also pay a 10% penalty on the Part B premium for each year of delay. This penalty increases every time the Medicare premiums increase and continues to do so for the rest of a person`s life.
There is one exception to this late enrollment rule. A person may decline Part B and enroll later without a penalty if he/she is covered by an employer`s group health plan through active employment or through his/her spouse`s active employment. He/she may enroll later in Part B during a special 8-month enrollment period that usually begins when the employment ends.
Enrollment Web site: http://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan/questions/enroll-now