retirement

When You Should Sign Up for Medicare

You can enroll three months before your 65th birthday. But if you’re still working, you may want to wait.

I will be 65 soon. When do I sign up for Medicare?

You can enroll in Medicare as early as three months before the month you turn 65 and up to three months after the month you turn 65. It’s best to sign up before your 65th birthday so that you can start receiving benefits as soon as possible. If you’re just signing up for Medicare and not Social Security, you can use this link to apply online, or you can call the Social Security administration at 800-772-1213. Also see Social Security’s Apply Online for Medicare publication for more details.

If you’re already collecting Social Security when you turn 65, you will automatically be enrolled in Part A and Part B, and the Part B premium will be deducted from your benefits. Keep in mind that although you are eligible for Medicare at 65, your full retirement age for Social Security is 66 or older, depending on the year you were born. See the Social Security Administration’s full retirement age table.

Most people should sign up for Part A, which covers in-patient and hospital care, as soon as they are eligible; it’s generally free. If you’re still working and you get health insurance from your employer, however, you can usually choose whether to sign up for Part B, which covers doctor’s visits and outpatient care. The monthly premium is $104.90 for most people in 2015; it’s more if your income is higher than $85,000 if single or $170,000 if married filing jointly. See What You’ll Pay for Medicare in 2015 for details about the high-income surcharge. See Should I Get Part B? at Medicare.gov for more information about the decision to sign up or not.

If you’re still working at 65 and decide to delay signing up for Part B, you’ll have eight months to do so after you lose your employer coverage. If you miss that deadline, you’ll have to wait until the next Part B open-enrollment period (from January 1 to March 31), and your monthly premium will increase by 10% for each 12-month period you delay. See Survive the Medicare Enrollment Maze for more information.

You can no longer make contributions to a health savings account after you sign up for Medicare Part A or Part B. So if you’re still working and have a high-deductible health insurance policy and an HSA through your employer, you may want to delay signing up for Medicare so that you can continue to contribute to your HSA. That’s especially true if your employer pitches in some money to the account. However, you may not be able to delay enrolling in Part A if you’ve already signed up for Social Security benefits or if your employer has fewer than 20 employees. In that case, Medicare will be the primary coverage.

For more information, see How to Make HSA Contributions After Age 65. For more information about HSAs, see FAQs About Health Savings Accounts.

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