What You Need To Know About Medicare, Enrollment, And The SEP

What is the Medicare Special Enrollment Period (or SEP)? If you're new to this federal health insurance program, take a look at what you need to know about your benefits and the SEP.

When Can Most People Enroll?

There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Some people who qualify for this type of federal insurance don't need to enroll. Adults who have had Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits for a few months will automatically qualify for Parts A and B when they turn 65. Those who qualify for either Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, but haven't received the benefits for a few months, will need to enroll.

Some adults under 65 are also automatically enrolled in Parts A and B. If you aren't 65 and have had disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board for at least 24 months you may automatically qualify for Medicare.

Adults who are about to turn 65 and aren't automatically enrolled can sign up during the initial enrollment period. This starts three months before your sixty-fifth birthday. The initial enrollment period ends three months after you turn 65. After the initial enrollment period ends, adults 65-plus can sign up for parts A and B during the general enrollment period. This annual period starts January 1 and ends March 31. If you wait for the general enrollment period to sign up, your coverage won't start until July 1.

When Would You Need the SEP?

You may not need to apply for both parts of this federal health insurance program when you turn 65. Adults who aren't automatically enrolled in Parts A and B, are still working/have a spouse who is still working, and have coverage under a group health insurance plan may not choose to enroll in Part B. Instead of the initial or general enrollment periods, you may qualify for the SEP.

The SEP provides a way to sign up for Part B coverage outside of other enrollment periods. If you meet the employment and insurance qualifications and are 65 or older, you can enroll in Part B while you are still covered by your employer-based group health plan. You may also qualify for the SEP during the eight months after your employer-based health coverage or employment ends.

It's possible you may not qualify for the SEP—even if you have insurance through your employer. If your health coverage ends or you retire, lose your job, or leave your job anytime between the three months before you turn 65 to the three months after, you must sign up for Part B during the initial enrollment period. Reach out to a professional for more information about Medicare