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When to enroll in Medicare

Most people are eligible for Medicare at age 65. If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits, you’ll be enrolled automatically.

If you’re not receiving Social Security benefits, you’ll need to sign up for Medicare. You have seven months to sign up for Medicare – three months before your 65th birthday, the month of your 65th birthday, and three months after your 65th birthday.

Example: Your birthday: July 4
Medicare enrollment calendar: 3 months before to 3 months after 65th birthday

Check with your employer if you need to enroll in Medicare first because there is the option to wait to enroll. If you or your spouse plan to keep working and have active employer group coverage with a large employer you can wait to enroll.

How to enroll in Medicare

You can sign up for Medicare three ways:

  • Online at
  • By phone at 1-800-772-1213
  • In person at a Social Security Office

Getting a Medicare Advantage, Medigap, or Medicare Part D plan

Once you’re enrolled in Original Medicare, you can decide to enroll in a Part C (Medicare Advantage), Medicare Part D (Prescription drug coverage), or Medigap plan from a private insurance company.

There are three election periods where you can enroll in or change your plan choice:

Initial Enrollment

This is when you first become eligible for Medicare. During this time, you can enroll in Medigap and a Part D plan (if you choose Original Medicare) or a Medicare Advantage Plan for the current year.

Annual Election Period

After your initial enrollment, you can make changes to your plan choices for the following year during the Annual Election Period (AEP) from October 15 to December 7.

Disenrollment Period

From January 1 to March 31 every year or if you are newly eligible to Medicare, within the first three months. During this time, if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you change plans once during this election. You can enroll in another Medicare Advantage plan or disenroll from your plan and return to Original Medicare.

In addition to these election periods, there are special circumstances in which you can enroll or make changes called Special Election Periods (SEP). For example, if you were covered by your employer’s plan and didn’t enroll during the initial enrollment period or you moved to a new area with different plan options.

For all of the details on enrollment guidelines and requirements, visit

Researching your Medicare Plan options (PDF)