Filing for Medicare is easy. You can apply online, by phone or in person at the Social Security office.
Applying for Medicare can feel intimidating, but your Medicare enrollment will be easier than you might think. We walk thousands of people through how to sign up for Medicare every year, so read on for everything you need to know to apply for Medicare.
The Social Security office handles Medicare applications for Parts A and B. They offer several easy options so you can choose how to apply for Medicare. If you are aging into Medicare, you may apply as early as 3 months prior to the month of your 65th birthday. You’ll find that getting started early is a plus so that you’ll have your new Medicare card in hand before your effective date.
This is your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period to enroll in Parts A and B. (It is also your enrollment period for Part D, but you purchase Part D separately from an insurance company. You do not enroll in it through Social Security because Part D is voluntary.)
Next, we’ll cover when to apply for Medicare.
Medicare is separate from your application for Social Security income benefits. People age into Medicare at age 65, regardless of whether they are taking retirement income benefits yet. If you are a citizen age 65 or older and need medical insurance, you are entitled to enroll in Medicare.
Don’t expect that Medicare will notify you of when it’s time to sign up either.
If you already taking Social Security income benefits or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B at age 65. Your card should arrive 1- 2 months before you turn 65.
If you are NOT yet taking retirement benefits, then you will need to submit a Medicare application yourself. The government expects for you to know when to enroll. Let’s look at the timeline for when and how to register for Medicare.
Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) for Medicare Parts A, B and D last 7 months. It begins 3 months before your 65th birthday month, and runs for 3 months after your birth month. Enrolling in Medicare during your IEP means that you will have no late penalties. There are also no pre-existing condition waiting periods.
When to register for Medicare Parts A, B and D depends on whether Medicare will be your primary coverage, or whether you still have employer coverage.
If Medicare will be your primary coverage, you should enroll in Medicare in the 3 months before your birth month. Your Medicare will start on the first of the month in which you turn 65. Enrolling prior to your birthday will ensure your benefits begin on the first of your birthday month.
If you register for Medicare in the 3 months after your 65th birthday, then your start date will be later. People unaware of this could end up with a few months of no health coverage. It’s important to realize that your application date affects your start date.
Also, if you are leaving employer coverage in the middle of your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period, then your IEP trumps any other election period. We’ve seen this a number of times where people assume their Medicare coverage will start immediately after the group coverage ends.
However, if you are in your IEP and your birth month has already passed, this chart demonstrates that you must wait for your coverage.
When you file for Medicare can affect the effective date of your coverage so it’s important to know the deadlines ahead of time.
It’s easy to see why applying for Medicare prior to your 65th birthday month is generally in your best interest.
If you have no other coverage and you fail to enroll during your 7-month IEP, then will be subject to a Part B late enrollment penalty of 10% per month for every full 12-month period that you were not enrolled.
If you have small employer coverage (less than 20 employees), you should always enroll in both Parts A and B during your IEP. Medicare will be primary if your employer has less than 20 employees. Filing for Medicare at age 65 is very important if you work for a small employer!
Medicare can coordinate with your employer insurance even if you are still working. If you are actively working at an employer with 20+ employees, Medicare will be secondary to your employer coverage.
In that case, you can choose whether to enroll in Part B or delay your enrollment into Part B until later. Your group plan likely has outpatient benefits already built in, so delaying Part B enrollment can save you money until you retire from your job.
When to apply for Medicare varies for each person. What’s worse is that even though these rules exist, there are often workers at Social Security who will get them wrong. This can really affect you, so contact Us if you get stuck and we will do our best to help you get everything Straightened out.
Lastly, if you are still working, we’ll evaluate the costs of your employer coverage compared to what Medicare would cost as your primary coverage. If staying at your employer insurance makes more sense, we can help you decide whether to enroll in Parts A or B or both.
Next we’ll look at HOW to apply for Medicare online.
How to Sign Up for Medicare
Social Security offers you a quick online application for Medicare that can be completed in fewer than ten minutes. You do not have to be receiving income benefits to get Medicare. Just visit the Social Security website =and follow the links about applying for Medicare.
To apply for both SS retirement benefits and Medicare at the same time, visit this link: https://www.ssa.gov/retire
To apply for just Medicare, visit this link: https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare/
While you wait for your card to arrive, our friendly agents can help you learn your Medicare supplemental insurance options. You’ll be ready to set up the rest of your coverage by the time you get your card.
Enrolling in Medicare online is certainly the easiest, but occasionally people run into problems because some of their data is incorrect in Social Security’s system. If that happens, you can consider signing up by phone. Let’s take a look at that next.
Filing for Medicare by phone can take several weeks, so use the other enrollment methods if you are short on time.
Applying for Medicare by phone is just as easy as applying for Medicare online. Contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 ( for TTY users, it’s 1-800-325-0778) and tell the representative that you wish to apply for Medicare. Sometimes you will be helped immediately. If the volume of calls is high, Social Security will schedule a telephone appointment with you to take your application over the phone.
Your SS representative may send you some forms to complete. Generally these forms are simple. One caveat about phone applications for Medicare is that they take longer. The forms have to be mailed to you, and then you complete them and mail back. This can cause delays. Use the phone enrollment option only if you have a month or two lead time before your intended Medicare effective date.
Finally, there are some people who just feel better handling their Medicare enrollment in person. So let’s close by going over how to apply for Medicare in person.
Some people prefer to submit their Medicare application in person.
Some people prefer to apply for Medicare in person at a local Social Security office. This can be a convenient option if you are very close to turning 65 and need to get your application processed quickly.
Visit the social security website to search for the office nearest you. When you meet with a representative, ask for a printout which shows that you have applied for Medicare Part A & B. This form will give you all the information you need to move forward with your Medicare supplement application and/or Part D drug plan.
Your open enrollment for Medicare itself is based on your birthday. It’s a seven-month window that begins 3 months before your 65th birthday month. Register for Medicare within this window to avoid penalties. Be sure not to confuse this enrollment period with the Annual Election Period (AEP) in the fall. The AEP is different and is only for changing your drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan.
In other words – how long does it take to get your Medicare card after applying? In most cases, you will receive your Medicare card about 3 weeks after you apply. If you are already receiving Social Security benefits when you turn 65, your enrollment into Medicare is automatic. Your card will just show up in your mailbox about 2 months before you turn 65. When you receive it, be sure that you do not forget to enroll in Part D – if you need drug coverage – before your initiate enrollment period ends. Your agent is not allowed to solicit you for Part D since it is voluntary, so you must initiate that enrollment.
Thank goodness, no! Just one Medicare application is enough.
Your Medicare Parts A and B will automatically renew every year unless you fail to pay your premiums. You Part D drug plan will also auto-renew each year. However, Part D drug plan benefits change from year to year. Be sure you review your coverage annually during the fall annual election period.
Applying for Medicare is just your first step. Medicare does not cover all of your medical costs. There is significant financial exposure to you in the deductibles and coinsurance that you must pay. Working with an expert insurance agent will help you to identify Medicare supplemental insurance coverage that suits you.
Your effective date for Part B often depends on when you have enrolled. In many circumstances, Part B will begin the following month. However this is not always the case. Refer to the chart above or ask the Medicare rep who helps you with your application.