Any U.S. citizen who is 65 or older can get Medicare. If you're already getting Social
Security checks, enrollment into the program should be automatic. You'll get Medicare
card three months before your 65th birthday. The benefits start to happen on the
first day of the month of your 65th birthday. If you're not getting Social Security
payments already, you have to enroll in the program to get Medicare.
Regardless of age, people with Lou Gehrig's disease, kidney failure, and some other
disabilities also get Medicare. However, they might have a waiting period before
they can get Medicare benefits.
Pay close attention to get Medicare enrollment deadlines. In general, Medicare limits
your ability to add or drop coverage after official enrollment periods.
Pay attention for Medicare penalties. If you don't get Medicare and sign up during
your initial enrollment period for some programs like Medicare Part B and Medicare
Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D), you might pay a higher monthly fee when you
sign up later. There are some exceptions.
If you have drug coverage now that is as good as Medicare's or better, you shouldn't
be charged a late penalty if you sign up later. Similarly, if you or your spouse
is still working when you turn 65 and have health insurance through that job, you
can wait to sign up for Part B without having to pay higher premiums.
Sign up for Medigap early. If you need a Medigap plan, you should buy it within six
months of getting Medicare Part B. During that period, you're protected. You're guaranteed
to get any Medigap plan you want. But if you try to buy it after those six months,
the insurance company can charge you a higher price or turn you down altogether.