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Missed the Initial Enrollment Period? Here’s what to do.

I turned 65 over a year ago. My friend mentioned Medicare and I realized I hadn’t done anything about that. When I talked to a Medicare insurance agent yesterday, he said I missed my chance to enroll in Medicare. Is that true? Now what do I do?

Medicare offers an Initial Enrollment Period for those turning 65 to sign up for coverage. This is a seven-month period beginning three months before and ending three months after the month of the 65th birthday. Enrolling during the first three months will ensure coverage is in place on the first of the birth month. Taking action during the last four months will delay the effective date but there will be no penalties for late enrollment.   

You missed this chance to enroll. Your next opportunity to enroll in Part A and Part B will be during the General Enrollment Period, January 1-March 31. Coverage becomes effective July 1. Then, between April 1 and June 30, you can enroll in a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan and a Medigap policy or a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage (MA-PD).  

You face two late enrollment penalties.

  • A Part B penalty for every full year (12 months) you delayed enrollment: That penalty is 10% of the standard Part B premium or $14.85 in 2021 added to the monthly premium of $148.50 for new beneficiaries.
  • A Part D penalty for every month you were without creditable drug coverage: That is 1% of the standard Part D premium or $0.3306 in 2021, also added to the monthly plan premium. For example, a person who does not have creditable coverage for 10 months would pay an additional $3.30 every month (rounded to the nearest 10 cents).

Know that the penalties will follow you for life and that the penalty amounts change every year.   

FYI:  Those who have a group health plan, related to current employment in a company with 20 or more employees, do not have to take action during the Initial Enrollment Period. If they have continuous coverage from age 65 until giving up the group plan, with no gaps of eight or more months, they can qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). When their coverage is ending, they can sign up for Medicare without facing a delay or penalty. (For more information, see

Last updated: 01-11-2021