A healthy life is a good life. The Medicare benefits you’ve earned ensure that you can receive the care you need, when you need it.

And, when it comes to Medicare benefits, the most important thing to remember is to apply for them at age 65.

On your behalf, advocacy groups asked us to place a greater emphasis on information about enrolling in Medicare at age 65, and specifically, about the potential problems that arise if you don’t.

In the past few months, in conjunction with the White House Conference on Aging, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Social Security Administration have strengthened many of our communications products to ensure that all people nearing age 65 hear the following message:

Three months before your 65th birthday, you should apply for Medicare benefits. At that time, you’ll be asked to elect if you also want Medicare Part B that helps pay for doctors’ services and many other medical services and supplies that hospital insurance doesn’t cover. If you don’t sign up at age 65, and you then decide to enroll later, you may pay a lifetime late enrollment penalty and you may have a gap in medical insurance coverage. There are exceptions, but play it safe, and ask your Medicare or Social Security representative about your personal situation.

To make this message clear, our two agencies have already:

  • Updated the text accompanying Medicare cards to emphasize the importance of enrolling in Part B when you’re first eligible to avoid paying a penalty for as long as you have Medicare coverage.
  • Updated publications about Medicare, such as the “Medicare” booklet and the “Apply Online For Medicare In Less Than 10 minutes—Even If You Are Not Ready to Retire” leaflet, to emphasize the importance of enrolling in Medicare when you’re first eligible.
  • Updated frequently asked questions on Social Security’s and CMS’ websites, phone scripts, and training materials to better inform those who are newly eligible for Medicare.
  • Updated the Social Security Statement and the insert for people who are 55 and older to strengthen the message about when to apply for Medicare. To get your Statement online, open a my Social Security account.