Learn based on my situation

To help you find the information you need, select the situation that best fits you.

If you’re just getting started with Medicare, learn about Medicare and how it works.

I’m turning 65 in the next 3 months, and I’m NOT yet getting benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board

How do I get Medicare?

If you're turning 65 in the next 3 months and not already getting benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), you’ll need to sign up with Social Security to get Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). You won't get Medicare automatically.

To sign up:

About 2 weeks after you sign up for Medicare or Social Security benefits, Medicare will send you a "Welcome to Medicare" packet along with your red, white, and blue Medicare card. You'll still have other important deadlines and actions to take, so read all of the materials in the packet.

You don’t need to sign up for Medicare each year. However, each year you’ll have a chance to review your coverage and change plans.

Should I get Part B?

Most people should enroll in Part A when they turn 65, but certain people may choose to delay Part B. Find out more about whether you should take Part B.

Note: If you don't qualify for premium-free Part A, you must sign up for Part B in order to buy Part A.

​​​​​​Learn about when you can sign up for Parts A and B.

Can I get a health or drug plan?

When you decide how to get your Medicare coverage, you might choose Original Medicare or a

Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C)

. To get Medicare drug coverage, you must join a Medicare-approved plan that offers drug coverage (this includes Medicare drug plans and Medicare Advantage Plans with drug coverage). There are specific times when you can sign up for these plans, or make changes to coverage you already have.

I’m turning 65 in the next 3 months and I ALREADY get benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)

How do I get Medicare?

If you already get benefits from Social Security or the RRB (or will be getting benefits at least 4 months before you turn 65), you'll get Medicare Part A and Part B automatically when you're first eligible and don't need to sign up. If your birthday is on the first day of the month, Part A and Part B will start the first day of the prior month.

Medicare will send you a "Welcome to Medicare" packet along with your red, white, and blue Medicare card 3 months before you turn 65. You'll still have other important deadlines and actions to take, so read all of the materials in the packet. (If you live in Puerto Rico, you'll only get Part A. If you want Part B, you need to sign up for it.)

You don’t need to sign up for Medicare each year. However, each year you’ll have a chance to review your coverage and change plans.

Should I get Part B?

Most people should enroll in Part A when they turn 65, but certain people may choose to delay Part B. Find out more about whether you should take Part B.

Can I get a health or drug plan?

When you decide how to get your Medicare coverage, you might choose Original Medicare or a 

Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C)

. To get Medicare drug coverage, you must join a Medicare-approved plan that offers drug coverage (this includes Medicare drug plans and Medicare Advantage Plans with drug coverage). There are specific times when you can sign up for these plans, or make changes to coverage you already have.

I plan to continue working when I turn 65 in the next 3 months

How do I get Medicare?

If you aren’t getting benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) at least 4 months before you turn 65, you'll need to sign up with Social Security to get Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). However, depending on the size of the employer, you may be able to delay Part A and Part B without having to pay a penalty if you enroll later. 

The size of the employer determines whether you can delay Part A and Part B without having to pay a penalty if you enroll later.

The employer has fewer than 20 employees.

You should sign up for Part A and Part B when you're first eligible. In this case, Medicare pays before your other coverageLearn more about how to get Parts A and B.

Note: If you don’t enroll when you’re first eligible, you may have to pay a Part B late enrollment penalty, and you may have a gap in coverage if you decide you want Part B later.

The employer has 20 or more employees.

Ask your benefits manager whether you have group health plan coverage (as defined by the IRS). If you have group health coverage based on current employment, you may be able to delay Part A and Part B and won’t have to pay a lifetime late enrollment penalty if you enroll later. If you want to delay both Part A and Part B coverage, you don’t need to do anything when you turn 65.

If you’re eligible for premium-free Part A, you can enroll in Part A at any time after you’re first eligible for Medicare. Your Part A coverage will go back (retroactively) 6 months from when you sign up for Medicare or Social Security/RRB benefits (but no earlier than the first month you’re eligible for Medicare). To avoid a tax penalty, you should stop contributing to your Health Savings Account (HSA) at least 6 months before you apply for Medicare.

If you aren't eligible for premium-free Part A, and you don't buy it when you're first eligible, you may have to pay a penalty.

What happens when my employment or employer/union coverage ends?

Once your employment (or your employer/union coverage) ends, 3 things happen:

  1. You may be able to get COBRA coverage, which continues your health insurance through the employer's plan (in most cases for only 18 months) and probably at a higher cost to you.
  2. You have 8 months to sign up for Part B without a penalty, whether or not you choose COBRA. To sign up for Part B while you're employed or during the 8 months after employment ends, complete an Application for Enrollment in Part B (CMS-40B) and a Request for Employment Information (CMS-L564). If you choose COBRA, don't wait until your COBRA ends to enroll in Part B. If you don't enroll in Part B during the 8 months after the employment ends:
    • You may have to pay a penalty for as long as you have Part B.
    • You won't be able to enroll until January 1–March 31, and you'll have to wait until July 1 of that year before your coverage begins. This may cause a gap in health care coverage.
  3. If you already have COBRA coverage when you enroll in Medicare, your COBRA will probably end. If you become eligible for COBRA coverage after you're already enrolled in Medicare, you must be allowed to take the COBRA coverage. It will always be secondary to Medicare (unless you have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)). Learn more about how Medicare works with other insurance.

Note: If you leave coverage from your employer or union (including COBRA coverage), you can join a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare drug plan. Your chance to join lasts for 2 full months after the month your coverage ends.

What happens if I retire?

If you retire and have Medicare and group health plan (retiree) coverage from a former employer, generally Medicare pays first for your health care bills, and your group health plan coverage pays second. Learn more about retiree insurance.

I’m 65 (or older) and didn’t sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B when I was first eligible

 If you didn’t sign up for Part A and/or Part B when you were first eligible and you aren’t eligible for a Special Enrollment Period:

To sign up for Part B, complete an Application for Enrollment in Part B (CMS-40B).

Find out when you're eligible for Medicare.

Note: If you aren’t automatically enrolled in premium-free Part A (for example, because you’re still working and not yet getting Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits), you can sign up (if you’re eligible) any time after your Initial Enrollment Period (the 7-month period that starts 3 months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends 3 months after the month you turn 65.

  • Your coverage start date will depend on when you sign up.
  • If you have to buy Part A and/or Part B, you can only sign up during a valid enrollment period.
If you wait until the month you turn 65 (or the 3 months after you turn 65) to enroll, your Part B coverage will be delayed. This could cause a gap in your coverage.

Can I get a health or drug plan?

If you enrolled in Medicare Part B during the Part B General Enrollment Period (January 1 – March 31), and:

  • You don’t have Medicare Part A: You can sign up for a Medicare drug plan April 1 – June 30.
  • You have Medicare Part A: You can sign up for a Medicare drug plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan with or without drug coverage April 1 – June 30.

During certain times each year, you can make changes to your Medicare Advantage or Medicare drug coverage for the following year.

I have a special situation like:

A disability

If you’re under 65 and have a disability, you automatically get Part A and Part B after you get one of these:

  • Disability benefits from Social Security for 24 months
  • Certain disability benefits from the RRB for 24 months

You'll get your red, white, and blue Medicare card in the mail 3 months before your 25th month of disability.

You don’t need to sign up for Medicare each year. However, each year you’ll have a chance to review your coverage and change plans.

Should I get Part B?

Certain people may choose to delay Part B. Find out more about whether you should take Part B.

Can I get a health or drug plan?

When you decide how to get your Medicare coverage, you might choose Original Medicare or a 

Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C)

. To get Medicare drug coverage, you must join a Medicare-approved plan that offers drug coverage (this includes Medicare drug plans and Medicare Advantage Plans with drug coverage). There are specific times when you can sign up for these plans, or make changes to coverage you already have.

If you’re already eligible for Medicare because of a disability, and you’re turning 65 in the next 3 months, you may be able to join, switch, or drop a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare drug plan. Learn about what you can do and when.

ESRD (End-Stage Renal Disease)

If you’re eligible for Medicare because of ESRD, you can enroll in Part A and Part B.

If you qualify for Part A, you can also get Part B. Enrolling in Medicare is your choice. But, you’ll need both Part A and Part B to get the full benefits available under Medicare to cover certain dialysis and kidney transplant services.

When you enroll in Medicare based on ESRD and you’re on dialysis, Medicare coverage usually starts on the first day of the fourth month of your dialysis treatments. This waiting period will start even if you haven’t signed up for Medicare. For example, if you don’t sign up until after you’ve met all the requirements, your coverage could begin up to 12 months before the month you apply.

If you're covered by an employer group health plan, your Medicare coverage will still start the fourth month of dialysis treatments. Your employer group may pay the first 3 months of dialysis.

Medicare coverage can start as early as the first month of dialysis if you meet all of these conditions:

  • You take part in a home dialysis training program offered by a Medicare-certified training facility to teach you how to give yourself dialysis treatments at home.
  • Your doctor expects you to finish training and be able to do your own dialysis treatments.
  • The regular course of dialysis is maintained throughout the waiting period that would otherwise apply.

If you have Medicare only because of permanent kidney failure, Medicare coverage will end:

  • 12 months after the month you stop dialysis treatments.
  • 36 months after the month you have a kidney transplant.

Your Medicare coverage will be extended if:

  • You start dialysis again, or you get a kidney transplant within 12 months after the month you stopped getting dialysis.
  • You start dialysis or get another kidney transplant within 36 months after the month you get a kidney transplant.

Should I get Part B?

If you qualify for Part A, you can also get Part B. Enrolling in Part B is your choice. But, you’ll need both Part A and Part B to get the full benefits available under Medicare to cover certain dialysis and kidney transplant services.

You can enroll in Part B without paying a late enrollment penalty if you apply for Medicare and are approved based on ESRD.

If you’re paying a late enrollment penalty for Part B, when you apply for Medicare and enroll in Part B based on ESRD, your Part B late enrollment penalty will be removed.

How do I sign up?

If you have ESRD you can you can enroll in Part A and Part B by visiting your local Social Security office or by contacting Social Security.

Learn more about signing up for Medicare if you have ESRD.

Can I get a health or drug plan?

When you decide how to get your Medicare coverage, you might choose Original Medicare or a 

Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C)

. To get Medicare drug coverage, you must join a Medicare-approved plan that offers drug coverage (this includes Medicare drug plans and Medicare Advantage Plans with drug coverage). There are specific times when you can sign up for these plans, or make changes to coverage you already have.

ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig's disease)

You automatically get Part A and Part B the month your disability benefits begin. You'll get your red, white, and blue Medicare card in the mail the month your disability benefits begin.

You don’t need to sign up for Medicare each year. However, each year you’ll have a chance to review your coverage and change plans.

Should I get Part B?

Certain people may choose to delay Part B. Find out more about whether you should take Part B.

Can I get a health or drug plan?

When you decide how to get your Medicare coverage, you might choose Original Medicare or a 

Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C)

. To get Medicare drug coverage, you must join a Medicare-approved plan that offers drug coverage (this includes Medicare drug plans and Medicare Advantage Plans with drug coverage). There are specific times when you can sign up for these plans, or make changes to coverage you already have.