When you're first eligible for Medicare, you have a 7-month initial enrollment period to sign up for Part A and/or Part B, but some people are enrolled in Part A and Part B automatically. 

Most people get premium-free Part A. You usually don't pay a premium if you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes while working. You can get premium-free Part A at 65 if:

  • You already get retirement benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board.
  • You're eligible to get Social Security or Railroad benefits but haven't filed for them yet.
  • You or your spouse had Medicare-covered government employment.

If you're younger than 65, you can get premium-free Part A if:

  • You got Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board disability benefits for 24 months.
  • You have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and meet certain requirements.

If you get Medicare automatically, you'll get your red, white and blue Medicare card in the mail three months before your 65th birthday or your 25th month of disability.

You may need to sign up for Part A & Part B if:

  • You aren't getting Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits (for example, because you're still working).
  • You qualify for Medicare because you have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD).
  • You live in Puerto Rico and want to sign up for Part B (you automatically get Part A). You must already have Part A to apply for Part B.

Part A covers inpatient expenses. These costs usually include:

  • Inpatient hospital care
  • Inpatient stays in most skilled-nursing facilities
  • Hospice and home health services

Part A does not cover all inpatient expenses. You are responsible for paying some costs before your benefits apply, such as your deductible, and certain costs after the deductible is met.

The federal government administers Part A. To learn more about Medicare Part A, visit http://www.medicare.gov.

Last updated 10/01/2018