Medicare eligibility is generally based on two factors—age or health. You qualify for Medicare if you:
- Are 65 or older
- Have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)
- Have Lou Gehrig’s Disease
- Have Received Social Security Disability Benefits for at Least 24 Months
Enrolling in Medicare at 65
The best time to enroll in Medicare is your 65th birthday—the 7 months surrounding it are referred to as your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). During this period, you are eligible for all basic Medicare plans (unless they have special eligibility requirements).
If you are not currently working and miss your IEP, you may face late enrollment fees, or have a harder time meeting eligibility requirements.
Medicare Enrollment Periods
There are 3 main periods to enroll in Original Medicare. The first is the Initial Enrollment Period, which has already been introduced. If you miss this period for any reason, you can also apply during the General Enrollment Period (GEP), which takes place from January 1st to March 31st.
If you are still working when you turn 65 or meet different requirements, you may also be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). With this opportunity, you will not be faced with any late fees or penalties that you would otherwise.
The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) takes place from October 15th through December 7th. If you decide to enroll in or change your Medicare coverage, you may do so during this time. More specifically, you can:
- Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan
- Switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare
- Switch from an Advantage plan without Prescription Drug Coverage to One with It
- Switch from a Plan with Prescription Drug coverage to one without
- Join or Drop a Part D Prescription Drug Plan
- Switch to a New Insurer
Premium-Free Part A Eligibility
A great way to save money on your Medicare plan is to apply for Premium-free Medicare Part A. If eligible, you will not have to make any monthly payments for your coverage under this plan. You are eligible for premium-free Part A if:
- You or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years.
- You are receiving or are waiting to apply for retirement benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board.
- You or your spouse had Medicare-covered government employment.
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