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When Do I Enroll in Medicare?

It’s important to understand when you can enroll in Medicare, so you’ll have the coverage you need as soon as you are eligible.

Be sure you start before you turn 65

If you’re reviewing this section and have not requested your free Medicare Timeline, please do so now. As you reach certain milestones on the road to age 65 and Medicare, you’ll get personalized emails with specific advice that can help make your path to enrollment clear and easy.

You can enroll for the first time in Medicare Part A and/or B only at certain times without the risk of late enrollment penalties. The first opportunity is your Initial Enrollment Period.

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

This is a 7-month period that begins 3 months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and runs for 3 months after the month you turned 65. This table can help make finding your IEP easy.

65th Birthday
Your Initial Enrollment
Period Begins
Your Initial Enrollment
Period Ends
January October 1 April 30
February November 1 May 31
March December 1 June 30
April January 1 July 31
May February 1 August 31
June March 1 September 30
July April 1 October 31
August May 1 November 30
September June 1 December 31
October July 1 January 31
November August 1 February 28 (29 in a leap year)
December September 1 March 31
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When to enroll in a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan

If you are new to Medicare, then your IEP for these options is exactly the same as your IEP for Medicare Part A and/or B.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois offers a range of Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans. You can enroll in these plans once you are enrolled in Medicare Part A and/or B.

For information, call us at 1-800-000-0000 (TTY 711).

Special Enrollment Period (SEP)

If you do not enroll during your IEP, special circumstances may allow you to sign up for Part A and/or B during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

Annual Open Enrollment Period

If you have a retiree group plan, the dates for this period are determined by your employer. If you have multiple plan options, you can change plans during this time if you find your current one isn't meeting your needs.

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How to enroll in Medicare Part A and/or B

You will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and/or B, if:

  • You are turning 65 and are receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits
  • You are under 65 and have received disability benefits for at least 24 months
  • You have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and are receiving disability benefits

If you do not fit one of the examples above, you must sign up for Medicare yourself. You have three options to enroll:

For more details on when to enroll, check out this Fact Sheet from Medicareexternal link icon.

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When to enroll in a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan

You may enroll in a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan at any time after you enroll in Medicare Part B. You are guaranteed acceptance as long as you also have Part A and if you enroll during the six-month Open Enrollment Period following your Part B enrollment. After that, your application will have to go through underwriting and you may be denied coverage.

Unsure about when you should enroll in a plan? Call Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois at 1-800-000-0000 (TTY 711). A Medicare advisor can guide you through every step of the process.

IMPORTANT: If you are eligible for a Retiree Group Medicare plan, some of this information may not apply to you. Please ask your employer or benefit administrator about your Medicare options, eligibility and enrollment information.

Get Your Medicare Timeline

Answer a few simple questions and we’ll provide you with a personalized timeline. You’ll also receive reminders with important information and actions you can take to stay on track as you near your Medicare eligibility.

Create My Timeline →

Compare, Choose and Enroll

Get started with your member login. Verify your information and see personalized recommendations based on lowest cost and most comprehensive coverage. Compare your options, contact an agent and enroll, all in one easy-to-use tool.

Help Me

Questions? Let us help.

As our valued member, you have access to exclusive resources and assistance. We’re here to help you make a smooth transition to Medicare. Call us to learn more.

1-800-000-0000 (TTY 711)

We’re open between 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., local time, 7 days a week. If you’re calling from April 1 through September 30, alternate technologies (for example, voicemail) will be used on the weekends and holidays.


This Information is a solicitation for insurance.

*Not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. Government or Federal Medicare Program.

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