How to Apply for Medicare (An Ultimate Guide)
With so many rules, regulations, exceptions and unique situations, Medicare enrollment can get confusing. We are here to make it simple and easy. Here is how to apply for Medicare.
How to enroll in all part of Medicare – including:
- Original Medicare (Parts A & B)
- Prescription Drug Plans (Part D)
- Either Medicare Advantage (Part C)
- Or Medicare Supplements (also called Medigap Plans)
Read this article if you need help deciding which one is best for you.
Applying For Medicare Overview Infographic
Applying for Medicare – Parts A & B
Let’s get right to it! If you are ready to enroll in Medicare, there are three ways to do it: in person, online, or by phone. Alternatively, if you are already on Social Security before you turn 65, your enrollment will be automatic.
(Read our FAQ’s below if you still need to determine if you are ready to enroll, or to see if you enrollment is automatic.)
Automatic Enrollment into Medicare
If you are already taking your Social Security benefits before you turn 65, then your enrollment into Medicare will be automatically started.
“If you already get benefits from Social Security, you’ll get Medicare Part A and Part B automatically when you’re first eligible and don’t need to sign up. Medicare will send you a “Welcome to Medicare” packet 3 months before you turn 65. You’ll still have other important deadlines and actions to take, so read all of the materials in the packet. (If you live in Puerto Rico, you’ll only get Part A. If you want Part B, you need to sign up for it.)”This is the direct quote from Medicare.gov
If for some reason you do not get automatically enrolled, and you think you should have, please call or visit the nearest Social Security office.
Medicare Enrollment Preparation
Before you head over to apply in person, online or by phone, you might want to gather the necessary documents needed to apply.
The SSA has created a helpful checklist of what you will need to apply for Medicare. You can find it here.
How to Apply for Medicare in Person
For those that are not automatically enrolled (still working or not taking social security yet on your 65th birthday) you will need to enroll yourself. Your first option is to do this in person.
While appointment wait times in the SSA lobby can make this a longer application process, it is often the fastest way to get your benefits started. For example, I will have clients that walk into the SSA office needing their Part B instated, and leave the office that same day with their benefits active. If you are in a time crunch (i.e. sudden retirement via layoff!) this is the fastest way to get your benefits in place.
In addition, if you run into any problems or concerns with your enrollment process, visiting Social Security in person might also be the fastest way to resolve any issues.
How to Apply for Medicare Online
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has partnered with CMS (The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) to offer you an online enrollment option. It is a fast process (about ten minutes) and is safe and secure.
If you are retiring and need both Social Security Benefits and Medicare, you can complete one application for both here.
According to the Social Security Administration, when you apply for benefits online, you will get a receipt. Moreover, you will have the ability to check the status of your application with the confirmation number on your receipt. This is a big benefit to applying online, but if you prefer, you have one more enrollment option: phone.
How to Apply for Medicare by Phone
Finally, you can apply for Medicare by phone. However, this is the slowest option, as you will likely have to use “snail mail,” the U.S. postal system that is, to receive and send paperwork.
If you decide to enroll by phone, just understand that it will take a while. Confirm with the SSA representative you are talking with that you will have enough time to complete enrollment this way. It is important to have your benefits in place in time for when you need them so you are not without coverage.
To apply for Medicare by phone, call
1-800-772-1213. (TTY 1-800-325-0778)
from 7 AM to 7 PM Monday through Friday.
(Source: SSA website.)
Enrollment in Medicare Part D
Next, you may be wondering, how do I enroll in Medicare Part D – Prescription Drug Coverage?
Part D is actually run by Private Insurance Companies, not the CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services). For this reason, you will need to enroll in a Prescription Drug Plan (Part D) separately from your enrollment in Original Medicare Parts A and/or B.
You can only enroll in a Part D plan if:
– You are in your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
– Have a Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
– Or are in the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) – Oct. 15 – Dec 7
How to Apply for Medicare Part D
To enroll in a Part D, Drug Plan, we highly suggest working with an agency, either online, by phone or in person, instead of just doing this on your own.
The main reasons we suggest using an agent, is…
- First, if you ever have a problem with your policy, you can call your agent for support and they can talk to the carriers with you and for you.
- Second, the Part D drug plans change often, and your agent will have the ability to stay on top of changes and premium rates. They can make sure you always have the best coverage and costs for your unique situation.
- Finally, like we saw in 2019, there are sometimes issues with policy comparison technologies. An independent agent can help you compare plan information correctly.
How to Apply for Medicare Advantage & Medigap Plans
After you enroll in Original Medicare, you will need to decide if you want:
- Original Medicare + A Supplement + Part D Drug Plan
- Or a Part C Medicare Advantage Plan (includes Parts A, B, & D)
There are benefits to going both routes, and you will need to decide which plan fits your needs the best. We do advise seeking the help of a licensed, independent insurance agent to help you in your decision making process. Moreover, your agent can then help you to enroll in your plan and be your support into the future.
In the meantime, here are some articles to help you decide which Medicare Plan is best for you:
Medicare Enrollment Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
When Can I Apply for Medicare?
The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): You will have a seven month window to apply for Medicare if you are not already on Social Security or Railroad Retirement Benefits. (Remember, if you are on Social Security/Railroad Benefits, you will be automatically enrolled.)
Your Seven Month Enrollment Window:
- Starts 3 Months Before Your 65th Birthday Month
- Continues Through Your Birthday Month
- And Then Lasts Until 3 Months After Your Birthday Month
During this time, you will need to apply for Parts A & B from the SSA or RRB (Social Security Administration or Railroad Retirement Board) and then decide if you want a stand alone Part D with a Supplement, or a Medicare Advantage Plan.
How Do I Enroll in Medicare Easy Pay?
Medicare Part B does cost money. You will pay a monthly premium for your Part B benefits. To see how to set up automated payments with Medicare Easy Pay, please click here.
How to Apply for Medicare Without Claiming Social Security?
You have access to Medicare at age 65, whether or not you decide to claim your social security benefits. You can do this in person, by phone, or online here.
How to Avoid Late Penalties
To read extensively about Medicare Late Enrollment Penalties, please read this article. In summary,
Part A – If you have to pay for Part A, and you don’t sign-up for it when you are first eligible, there is a late enrollment penalty: Premium price increase of 10% for “twice the number of years you could have had Part A, but didn’t sign up.”
Part B – If you do not sign-up for Part B when you are first eligible, there is an even steeper late enrollment penalty: Standard premium price increase of “10% for each full 12-month period that you could have had Part B, but didn’t sign up for it,” for as long as you have Part B.From https://medicarelifehealth.com/medicare-penalties-for-late-enrollment
To avoid these penalties, make sure you apply for Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) if you are not automatically enrolled through SS or RRB benefits.
What if you have health care with your employer at 65?
Make sure your employer’s insurance is considered “credible coverage.” Then, if it is you will let the government know you will be delaying your use of Medicare Part B until that coverage ends. (Part A does not cost you anything in most cases, so starting Part A when you are eligible is always a good practice, even with employer coverage. In this case, you would not have a penalty when you eventually begin Part B.
Dual Eligible? How to Apply for Medicare & Medicaid
People who meed the low income levels set by CMS may be eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. If you are eligible for both programs, you have special plans that help to coordinate your care and make things easier to manage. Please contact an independent insurance agent to see what plans are available to you in your area.
How Long Does it Take to Get Medicare?
It depends on when and how you enroll. Sometimes, you can have your Medicare Benefits start the same day you apply, if you do so in person and are already eligible.
How long does it take to get a medicare card?
If you are wondering, where is my medicare card? It is probably on its way. If you need to apply for Part D or supplemental coverage while you are waiting for it, you can have your independent agent call CMS with you to confirm your eligibility while filling out an application.
If you are being automatically enrolled in Medicare, you will receive a card in the mail typically at least a month before your birthday.