Getting Medicare when you turn 65

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Most Americans become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65. What you need to do to actually get Medicare depends on whether you are receiving Social Security retirement benefits or railroad retirement benefits.

  • If you are 65 and receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B.
  • You do not need to contact anyone. You will receive a package in the mail three months before your 65th birthday with your new Medicare card and a letter explaining how Medicare works and that you have been automatically signed up for both Medicare Part A and Part B. If you are receiving Social Security retirement benefits, your package and card will come from Social Security. If you get railroad retirement benefits, your package and card will come from the Railroad Retirement Board.

    The letter will also explain that your monthly Part B premium will be automatically deducted from your Social Security check or railroad retirement check beginning the month your coverage begins. You will be given the option to turn down Part B.

    Do not turn down Medicare Part B unless you have employer insurance from your or your spouse's current job. If you do not have employer insurance and you turn down Part B, you may have to pay a hefty premium penalty when you do sign up.

  • If you are 65, but are not receiving Social Security retirement benefits or railroad retirement benefits, you will need to actively enroll in Medicare.

    You may not be collecting Social Security retirement benefits if you are still working or if you were born in 1938 or later (the retirement age is higher for people born after 1938).

Case Examples
Mr. B did not sign up for Medicare when he was first eligible.

Mr. C became eligible for Medicare but declined Part B.

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Am I eligible for Medicare if I am 65 or over?

Medicare Part B late enrollment penalty

Enrolling in Medicare if you are turning 65 and do not receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits

Getting Original Medicare if you were not automatically enrolled

Should I enroll in Medicare if I have health insurance from my (or my spouse's) current employer?

Enrolling in Medicare Part B if you are 65 or older, still working (or spouse is still working) and have insurance from that job

Enrolling in Medicare when you have retiree insurance

Am I eligible for COBRA or retiree coverage if I stop working and have Medicare?

Local Social Security Office Locator

Railroad Retirement Board

Social Security Benefit Application

Social Security Eligibility

State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) Directory

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