If you’re getting close to turning 65 years old, you’re probably thinking about Medicare—specifically when—and how—to enroll.


TIAA-CREF offers some guidance to help you through this process. Medicare provides health insurance for people aged 65 and older, as well as those younger than 65 who receive disability benefits. You are typically enrolled for Medicare Parts A and B automatically upon receiving your Social Security benefit—starting the first day of the month you turn 65.


If you are nearing 65 and do not receive Social Security payments, you must sign up. To enroll, contact your local Social Security office or go to www.medicare.gov. Your “initial enrollment period” (IEP) will begin three months prior to your 65th birthday and last for seven months. You should sign up for at least Part A during your initial enrollment period, even if you are still working and insured through your employer. Doing so can save you costs that are not covered by your workplace plan.


AARP shares some enrollment facts that you should keep in mind (“9 Medicare Enrollment Facts You Need to Know,” September 2014):


  • Sign up during the IEP at age 65 if you won’t have health coverage from active employment—either yours or your spouse’s—after age 65.
  • Sign up during the IEP before age 65 if you qualify for Medicare because of a disability. Social Security will let you know when your Medicare coverage will begin.
  • Sign up during the special enrollment period (SEP) if you delayed enrollment after age 65 because you had health coverage from active employment—again, either yours or your spouse’s. You have up to eight months after the employment ends to enroll.


There are many more details to consider when making decisions about Medicare. Consult an expert to make sure you are making the best, most financially advantageous decisions for your situation.

This material is for informational purposes only and the statements made above represent TIAA-CREF's interpretation of applicable rules and laws concerning Medicare and Social Security. It is presented with the understanding that TIAA-CREF (or its affiliates, distributors, employees, representatives and/or insurance agents) is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advice.