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Am I required to sign up for Medicare at age 65?


Do I have to enroll in Medicare when I turn 65? Our advisors get this question a lot. The answer? Technically no, but you may have to pay late enrollment penalties in certain cases if you choose to delay your enrollment in Medicare. Here’s what you need to know about when you need to sign up for Medicare.

Medicare Eligibility

To qualify for Medicare, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident for at least five consecutive years, and you are eligible for Medicare when at least one of the following applies:

  • You are age 65 or older
  • You are permanently disabled and have received disability benefits for at least two years
  • You have been diagnosed with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease)

Find out if you’re eligible for Medicare by taking our brief quiz.

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Retiring at 65

If you are planning to retire at 65, it is advisable to enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Your IEP is a seven-month period that begins three months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends three months after the month you turn 65. For example, if your 65th birthday is May 5, your IEP would start on Feb. 1 and end on Aug. 31. The only exception to this timing is if your birth date falls on the first of the month. In that case, your IEP begins and ends a month sooner. 

It's important to know that signing up for Medicare is different if you have a disability or receive Social Security benefits. Our advisors can help you navigate these situations.

Failing to enroll in Medicare during your IEP could result in late enrollment penalties (LEP). LEPs are issued to individuals if there’s a lapse in their health care coverage once they are eligible for Medicare. The penalty amount depends on how long the person has gone without creditable coverage. Creditable coverage is usually active employer coverage (not a retiree plan or COBRA) that meets or exceeds the Medicare plan standards.

Any penalties incurred are added to your Medicare monthly premium for the duration of your Medicare plan enrollment. Learn more about LEPs

We recommend contacting one of our experts for Medicare advice approximately six months before you turn 65. Our team is here to guide you through every step of the process, and we will help ensure you’re meeting deadlines and avoiding coverage gaps or potential penalties and fees.

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Working Past 65

Are you planning to work beyond 65? You’re in good company; increasingly, individuals are opting to work past traditional retirement age. Retirement is not a requirement for Medicare, which means you have more options when it comes to your health care coverage.

If you work at an organization with fewer than 20 employees, you’ll be required to enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B once you become eligible at age 65. In this situation, it generally makes sense to also enroll in a Medicare health plan. Medicare plans are usually more cost-effective than small group employer plans and offer more robust benefits.

However, if you work for an organization with more than 20 employees, you can choose between Medicare and your employer’s group health coverage. This means you have the option to defer (or delay) Medicare Part B and Part D. You may also want to defer Medicare Part A in some situations where you have the option to contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA) and are not yet receiving Social Security benefits. Our advisors can help you take the proper steps based on your situation. Contact us to avoid late enrollment penalties and ensure your drug coverage is creditable.

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Not sure where to start?

Medicare can be confusing! That’s why we’re here. Our experts know Medicare inside and out. Whether you are approaching Medicare or working past age 65, we can help. Reach out today at 937.915.3563 or schedule a call.

If you’re currently a RetireMed client and have questions about Medicare or your plan, call 877.222.1942 or schedule a call with a client advisor.