You don’t automatically receive Medicare when you turn 65–you must apply for it.
The exception to this is if you are already getting benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board, in which case you don’t have to sign up for Medicare. You will be mailed a Medicare card automatically just before you turn 65 and Medicare coverage will begin the first day of the month that you turn 65.
Apply on time to avoid financial penalties
The rest of us, who wait until age 66 or older to start collecting Social Security, have a 7-month window to sign up for Medicare–after that, you pay a penalty, unless you have other health coverage you want to continue (for example, you are still working and covered through your employee health plan or you are covered by your spouse’s plan). This 7-month window is called the initial enrollment period and begins three months before you turn 65 and ends three months after the month you turn 65. For every month you delay enrolling in the final three months of that window, you delay when your coverage begins by one month. So it pays to be on top of this and enroll around the time we are age 64 and 9 months. Read about the financial penalties for delaying your enrollment in Medicare.
Still Working at age 65?
If you are insured under your employer’s group health plan, you do not have to sign up for Medicare Part B until that coverage ceases. But you should still sign up for Medicare Part A, which covers hospitalization costs, when you reach age 65. It’s free.