In the Initial Enrollment Period, you have seven months to enroll in Medicare – three months before the month of your birthday, the month of your birthday, and until three months after the month of your birthday.
If you enroll in the month you turn 65 or AFTER your 65th birthday, health coverage begins on the first day of the month you enrolled – there is no retroactive coverage. For example, if you enroll in the third month after your birthday, your coverage starts that month. Any medical bills incurred in the month(s) before then would not be covered by Medicare even though you would have been entitled to coverage if you’d enrolled earlier.*
If you miss the initial Medicare Part A (if you have to buy it) and/or Part B (for which you must pay premiums) enrollment period, you will have to wait until the next General Enrollment Period (January 1- March 31 each year) to enroll, unless you are eligible for a Special Enrollment Period. If you enroll during the General Enrollment Period, your coverage won’t start until July 1 of that year. Any medical costs incurred during this waiting period will not be covered by Medicare and any Fund benefits will be reduced as if Medicare had paid its portion and you will be responsible for the difference.
If you fail to enroll in Medicare Part A during the Initial Enrollment Period (unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period), you will be liable for uncovered medical costs, and you will also pay a 10% penalty in additional premium payments for every 12-month period that you fail to enroll. You’ll have to pay the higher premium for twice the number of years you could have had Part A, but didn’t enroll. If you enroll in Part B late, you will also be liable for uncovered medical costs, and may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage. For each 12-month period you delay enrollment in Part B, you will have to pay an extra 10% of the Part B premium, unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.*
* In addition to the Medicare premium penalty and the loss of direct health coverage protection you are entitled to, if you fail to enroll in Medicare, Fund benefits will be reduced as if Medicare had paid its portion and you will be responsible for the difference – this can be very costly. (For more details, see Appendix A)