Why do I need to sign up?
It’s simple. It’s Insurance and that is how insurance works. You must sign up or pay a penalty. If the government didn’t charge a penalty then people may not sign up. Remember, Insurance only works when you have large numbers of healthy people and smaller numbers of unhealthy people. That spreads the risk. Medicare is nothing more than a Government run Insurance Plan. Obamacare, for people under 65, works like Medicare, too. People must sign up or pay a penalty!
When do I need to sign up?
Everyone must sign up or enroll for Medicare when they turn 65 or face a penalty. You can enroll in Parts A & B three months prior to the month you turn 65, the month you turn 65 and three months after. This is the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). If your birthday is December 12th, the example below shows your Initial Enrollment Period.
There is one main exception: If you are enrolled on your employer's or spouse's employer's group health plan and the employer has 20 or more employees then you have options. The Medicare website does a very good job of giving you several examples of how Medicare coordinates with other coverage.
There are also other times when you can enroll. This video gives a great explanation of the enrollment periods with Medicare.
Where do I sign up?
You can go to your Social Security office but why ruin your day? (Remember that you sign up through Social Security-not Medicare.) Online is easiest: Medicare Application. If you are already receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement you will automatically be enrolled in Parts A & B. Doesn’t mean you have to accept it. There are exceptions such as you or your spouse are still actively working and on an employer sponsored group plan through a company that employs more than 20+ employees.