When Can I Sign Up?

Special Enrollment Periods

After your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is over, you may have the chance to sign up for for Medicare during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

If you didn’t sign up for Part B or Part A (if you have to buy it) when you were first eligible because you’re covered under a group health plan (with 20 or more employees) based on current employment (your own, a spouse’s, or a family member’s or if you have a disability), you can sign up for Part A and/or Part B:

  • Anytime you’re still covered by the group health plan
  • During the 8-month period that begins the month after the employment ends or the coverage ends, whichever happens first

Usually, you don’t pay a late enrollment penalty if you sign up during a Special Enrollment Period. This Special Enrollment Period doesn’t apply to people who are eligible for Medicare based on End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). It also doesn’t apply if you’re still in your Initial Enrollment Period.

Note: If you have a disability, and the group health plan coverage is based on the current employment of a family member, the employer offering the group health plan must have 100 or more employees for you to get a Special Enrollment Period.

If you have COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) coverage, retiree health plans, VA coverage and individual health coverage like plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace, those plans aren’t considered coverage based on current employment or creditible coverage. It’s VERY IMPORTANT to note that you are NOT eligible for a Special Enrollment Period to sign up for Medicare when that coverage ends. To avoid paying a higher premium or waiting up to a year for Medicare coverage make sure you sign up for Medicare when you’re first elibglble

To learn more about enrollment periods, visit Medicare.gov, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048

General Enrollment Period

If you didn’t sign up for Part A (if you have to buy it) and/or Part B (for which you must pay premiums) during your Initial Enrollment Period, and you don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, you can sign up between January 1– March 31 each year.

Your coverage won’t start until July 1 of that year, and you may have to pay a higher Part A and/or Part B premium for late enrollment.


If you have TRICARE (health care program for active-duty and retired service members and their families), you generally must enroll in Part A and Part B when you’re first eligible to keep your TRICARE coverage.

However, if you’re an active-duty service member or an active-duty family member, you don’t have to enroll in Part B to keep your TRICARE coverage.

For more information, contact TRICARE.

If you have CHAMPVA coverage, you must enroll in Part A and Part B to keep it. Call 1-800-733-8387 for more information about CHAMPVA.


If you have Medicaid, you should sign up for Part B. Medicare will pay first, and Medicaid will pay second.

Medicaid may be able to help pay your Medicare out-of-pocket costs (like premiums, deductibles, co-insurances, and co-payments).

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

You can’t contribute to your HSA once your Medicare coverage begins. However, you may use money that’s already in your HSA after you enroll in Medicare to help pay for deductibles, premiums (if you’re billed directly), co-payments, or co-insurance. If you or your employer contribute to your HSA after your Medicare coverage starts, you may have to pay a tax penalty.

If you’d like to continue contributing to your employer-sponsored HSA without penalty after you turn 65, you shouldn’t apply for Medicare, Social Security, or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits. Remember, premium-free Part A coverage begins 6 months before the month you apply for Medicare (or Social Security/RRB benefits), but no earlier than the month you turn 65.

To avoid a tax penalty, you should stop contributing to your HSA at least 6 months before you apply for Medicare.