Medicare 101

Medicare is health insurance for people:

  • 65 and older
  • Under 65 with certain disabilities
    Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
    Any age with End-Stage Renal Disease

NOTE: To get Part A and/or Part B, you must be a U.S. citizen or lawfully present in the United States.

Part A: Hospital Insurance

Part B: Medical Insurance

Part C: Medicare Advantage Plans (like HMOs/PPOs) Includes Part A, Part B and sometimes Part D coverage

Part D: Medicare Perscription Dug Coverage

Original Medicare

Includes Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance)

You can add a Medicare Supplemental Insurance (Medigap) policy and Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage).

Medicare Advantage Plan

Part C, which combine Part A and Part B.

It may include, or you may be able to add Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage).  [Most Part C plans cover prescription drugs. You may be able to add drug coverage to some plan types if not already included.]

Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) lasts 7 months and:

  • Begins 3 months before your 65th birthday
  • Includes the month you turn 65
  • Ends 3 months after you turn 65 (Your start date will be delayed)

Can enroll in free Part A anytime after IEP begins

Can only enroll in Part B (and premium Part A) during IEP and other limited times

May have a lifetime penalty if you don't enroll during IEP

You can first enroll in Part B (and premium Part A) during your IEP.

Must pay a monthly premium for coverage.

Your coverage starts based on when you enroll:

  • Enroll before the month you turn 65, your coverage starts the month you turn 65
  • Enroll the month you turn 65, your coverage starts the next month
  • Enroll the last 3 months of your IEP, your coverage won’t start for 2 to 3 months

NOTE: If you're eligible for premium free Part A, you can enroll in Part A any time after your IEP starts

Automatic enrollment for those receiving

  • Social Security benefits
  • Railroad Retirement Board benefits

Initial Enrollment Period Package

  • Mailed 3 months before:

65 or
25th month of disability benefits

  • Includes your Medicare card

If you’re not automatically enrolled:

  • You need to enroll with Social Security. Visit, or call 1-800-772-1213, or visit your local office.
  • If retired from Railroad, enroll with the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). Call your local RRB office or 1-877-772-5772.

Want more information about Medicare and how to get started? Download our introduction to the federally-facilitated Health Insurance Marketplace, Medicaid and related resources.

Want to learn more about Medigap policies, and what they cover? Download our easy-to-understand Medigap Chart.

Please contact us with additional questions.