What Is the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) for Medicare?

Original Medicare is America’s federal health insurance program for people age 65 or older or for younger people with qualifying disabilities or End Stage Renal Disease. You can sign up for Medicare during your seven-month Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which begins three months before you turn 65.

Many people younger than 65 are automatically enrolled.

Senior couple researching in a library

Signing up for Medicare

In most cases, you have several ways to sign up for Original Medicare benefits.

If you’ve turned 65 and are already receiving Social Security benefits, the Social Security Administration will notify you if you’ve been automatically enrolled in Original Medicare.

Part A and Part B

If you’re 65 years or older and are a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S., you’re likely eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A (hospital insurance), assuming that you paid enough Medicare taxes (10 years worth) while working.

Medicare Part B (medical insurance) requires paying a premium, and you therefore have the option to decline coverage. However, if you decide later that you do want Medicare Part B, you may have to pay a penalty for as long as you have it.

You may also be eligible to sign up during a Special Enrollment Period if you are eligible.

If you don’t sign up during the Initial Enrollment Period and don’t qualify for special enrollment, you can sign up for either Medicare Part A or Part B during a General Enrollment Period, which runs each year from January 1 to March 31. Keep in mind your coverage won’t begin until July 1 of that year, and you may be subject to late enrollment penalties if you wait too long.

Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage is an alternative to Original Medicare. It allows you to receive Medicare benefits from a private insurance company. Many Medicare Advantage plans also provide additional benefits such as dental, vision and prescription drug coverage.

You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during your IEP or during the fall Open Enrollment Period, which occurs October 15 to December 7 each year.

To learn more about Medicare Advantage, or to get a free quote, speak with a licensed insurance agent at TTY Users: 711.