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Medicare beneficiaries can sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B only at certain times.
These times include:
1. When you first get Medicare
- People have a 7-month Initial Enrollment Period to sign up for Part A and Part B
- In most cases, if you don't sign up for Medicare Part B when they're first eligible, you'll have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B and could have a gap in your health coverage
2. Between January 1 - March 31 each year
- If you didn't sign up for Part A and/or Part B (for which they must pay premiums) when you were first eligible, and you aren't eligible for a Special Enrollment Period, people can sign up for the General Enrollment Period between January 1 - March 31 each year.
3. Special circumstances (Special Enrollment Periods)
- Once the Initial Enrollment Period ends, people may have the chance to sign up for Medicare during a Special Enrollment Period. If they're covered under a group health plan based on current employment, they have an SEP to sign up for Part A and/or Part B any time as long as they or a spouse (or family members if they're disabled) is working, and they're covered by a group health plan through the employer or union based on that work
- They also have an 8-month SEP to sign up for Part A and/or Part B that starts the month after the employment ends or the group health plan insurance based on current employment ends, whichever happens first. Usually, they don't pay a late enrollment penalty if they sign up during an SEP