Apply for Medicare as soon as possible to begin reaping the benefits when you are able. It can take up to seven months from the date of application to the time when your coverage is activated so make sure to plan accordingly for those few months. 

For age-based Medicare enrollment, you may apply three months before you turn 65 on or after the first day of that calendar month with one exception. If your birthday falls on the first day of a month it is treated as if you were born in the previous month. 

If you are not sure exactly when to begin the application process, contact the HHS or SSA to request clarification. The specialists at the HHS can help determine the time for your enrollment as well as anything needed for qualification

Initial Medicare Application Versus Active Coverage

The first enrollment period for Medicare encompasses the four-month period beginning in the month you were born. The date on which your coverage activates is dependent on when you apply. For example, if you apply during the month of your birth your coverage starts the following month. 

If you apply the month after your birthday, you must wait two months for coverage. You must wait for three months if you apply two months after your birthday. If the enrollment period expires before you can apply, you must wait for the start of the next open enrollment.

Medicare credits are provided based on work history. You can earn one Medicare credit per quarter, which is up to four per calendar year. This means the longer you work the more credits you can save up. To earn a credit in a specific quarter, you must have earned wages over the minimum required amount which can vary from year to year. For example, in 2024 that amount is $1,730. Your credits will determine your Medicare eligibility. If you are eligible, your credits also help to determine the level of coverage for which you qualify. Coverage types are:

  • Free
  • Reduced Premium
  • Full Premium

There are certain special considerations when examining Medicare credit earnings and with those, it is important to fully understand how to earn Medicare credits. For instance, credits earned by your spouse may allow you to qualify for coverage. Likewise, your spouse may qualify for coverage based on your work earnings. Which, given enough time, allows for a substantial number of credits to be earned between spouses.

Updated on 05/20/2022