When to Start the Process of Choosing a Medicare Supplement Plan
Medicare has two parts:
Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance), which helps pay for care in a hospital and skilled nursing facility, home health care, and hospice care; and
Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance), which helps pay for doctors, outpatient hospital care, and other medical services.
Most people don't have to pay for Medicare Part A. Most people pay for Medicare Part B.
If you didn’t sign up for Medicare Part B when you first became eligible, you may be able to sign up during the General Enrollment Period. This period runs from January 1 through March 31 of each year. During this time, you can sign up for Medicare Part B at your local Social Security office. If you get benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), call your local RRB office or 1-877-772-5772. Your Medicare Part B coverage will start on July 1 of the year you sign up.
Important: The cost of Medicare Part B will go up 10% for each full 12-month period that you could have had Medicare Part B but didn’t take it, except in special cases. You will have to pay this penalty as long as you have Medicare Part B.
If you already have Medicare Part A and need Part B you can sign up for Part B at your local Social Security office or by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778).
For more information on how delaying enrollment in Medicare Part B could result in paying higher Part B premiums, see our FAQ: What if I'm over 65 and didn't enroll in Part B during my Initial Enrollment Period?
For more information on delaying enrollment in Medicare Part B if you or your spouse is still working, see our FAQ: Can I delay my Medicare Part B enrollment without paying higher premiums? If you can delay your enrollment because you or your spouse are still working, the General Enrollment Period will not affect you until after you (or your spouse) stop working.