Getting Medicare at Age 65

Happy 65th birthday! Ready for Medicare?

When Medicare enrollment first comes to mind, it’s usually close to your 65th birthday. If you already receive benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), you are automatically enrolled in Medicare starting the first day of the month you turn 65 (or the prior month, if you were born on the first of the month).

When to sign up for Medicare

You must contact Social Security about three months before your 65th birthday to sign up for Medicare (Parts A and/or B). This is when your Initial Enrollment Period, or IEP, begins. The IEP is a seven-month period that is your first opportunity to sign up for Medicare.

Know your Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare

  • It begins three months before your birthday month
  • It includes your birthday month
  • It ends three months after your birthday month

Your Initial Enrollment Period spans seven months:

infographic to illustrate the first day of your initial enrollment period starting and the last day you're eligible to enroll for Medicare

Your Initial Enrollment Period spans seven months:

infographic to illustrate the first day of your initial enrollment period starting and the last day you're eligible to enroll for Medicare

Medicare Part B enrollment tips

You can sign up for Part B coverage during three key periods.

Option 1

During your seven-month initial enrollment period

If you don't want to enroll in Part B during your initial enrollment period, you must return your Part B notice to Social Security to decline coverage. A penalty for delaying enrollment may apply.

Option 2

During the Part B general enrollment period from January 1 to March 31

If you don't enroll during your initial enrollment period, you can enroll during the general enrollment period each year.

  • Coverage begins July 1 of the year you enroll and you are charged a penalty for each year you delay enrolling in part B.
  • Be aware that this penalty increases as premiums increase.

Option 3

During the Part B special enrollment period

You may qualify for an special enrollment period if you or your spouse have medical coverage through a union or employer, or if you canceled Part B coverage because you returned to work and received coverage through your employer.

  • Your special enrollment period begins when your employer or union coverage ends, or when your employment ends, whichever is first.
  • This special enrollment period lasts eight months.
  • We recommend contacting Social Security four months before your employment or coverage ends.

You should enroll in Part B if you plan to continue employer coverage through COBRA at age 65. You will not qualify for an SEP when COBRA ends.

If you're buying a Medicare Supplement

The best time to buy a Medigap plan (or Medicare Supplement) is during your Medigap open enrollment period.

Calendar icon for your 65th birthday with the first day of the month highlighted in blue

When does the period begin?
It starts on the first day of the month that you are 65 or older and are enrolled in Part B.

If you delay your Part B enrollment because you have coverage from an employer or union group, your Medigap open enrollment period won’t start until you sign up for Part B.

6 month icon for how long a Medicaregap plan lasts

How long does it last?
Six months. Your medigap open enrollment won't start until you sign up for Part B.

Best time to enroll in Medicare icon with a pen and paper

Why is this the best time to enroll?
During the open enrollment period, you don't need to provide your health history and won't be denied coverage.

If you're buying Part C (Medicare Advantage) and Part D (Prescription Drug Plans)

You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage (MA) or a prescription drug plan during your initial enrollment period.


Didn't receive an enrollment notice? Contact Social Security

If you don’t receive an enrollment notice three months before your 65th birthday, call the Social Security Administration:

1-800-772-1213
(TTY: 1-800-325-0778)

Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Monday through Friday

Automated phone services
available 24 hours a day,
seven days a week.

You can also apply for Medicare using the Social Security Administration’s online form.

Medicare enrollment requires some big decisions

It’s always smart to prepare early for Medicare so you can learn about what Medicare covers or whether you’ll need to cover the gaps with a Medicare supplement. Even if you are delaying retirement, there are things you should to do make your transition to Medicare easier when you retire.

If that sounds daunting, walk through your options with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, the state’s most trusted Medicare experts.

Questions or Ready to Apply?

Talk to an agent or call 800‑280‑2583 TTY 771 
Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Not sure which plan is right for you? Let us help you choose.