When to Apply for Medicare

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There isn’t just one simple answer to the question of when you should apply for Medicare. There are times when someone becomes eligible for Medicare and their card is mailed to them automatically. These people do not have to apply.

Those people automatically receiving Medicare without applying include:

  • Those who receive SSDI will receive Medicare 24 months later.
  • Anyone receiving Social Security benefits before age 65 will automatically receive Medicare.
  • Anyone receiving Railroad Retirement System benefits will automatically receive Medicare.

Age to Apply for Medicare

If you do not fall into any of these categories, you will have to apply for Medicare when you turn 65.  You have six months to get this done – 3 months before the month of your 65th birthday till 3 months after the month of your 65 birthday. Your Medicare will not be automatic. You will have to set it up. Do not apply late or you could be fined. Even if you are still working and have a health plan, it is in your interest to apply as soon as you are eligible.

Understanding Medicare

Before you decide how you want to go about applying for Medicare, you need to understand the different parts of the program and which ones you need. There are 5 relevant Parts to the Medicare program. These are Parts A through F.  What you are applying for has everything to do with how you apply.

When you are eligible for Medicare you will receive Part A. You can purchase Part B but will probably have to pay a premium. You can purchase Part D and pay a premium for prescription drugs.

Part C and Part F are just a little different. If you are enrolled in Parts A and B, then 80% of your medical expenses are covered and you are responsible for the other 20%. If you want that additional 20% covered, you will need Part F. Part F is a supplemental insurance program that you can purchase to cover some of those extra expenses.

Part C sets up the Medicare Advantage Plans that most Medicare users are choosing these days. These plans cover Part A, Part B, Part D and extras like vision and dental along with  Silver Sneakers and other wellness care.

Before you start your application for Medicare benefits, do some research and understand the options and then decide what is right for you. Once you have done that you can begin the Medicare application process.

How to Apply for Medicare?

How you apply for Medicare depends upon your individual circumstances and what parts of the program you need. You need the answer to the question “When should I apply for Medicare?”, before you can answer the how. There are several ways to apply. The following process is for enrolling online in Part A, Part B and Part D only. You cannot apply for Part B and D online unless applying for Part A as well.

Applying Online

  1. Go online to https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10043.pdf
  2. Download the copy of Medicare Enrollment Booklet
  3. Know the details of the plan you are choosing so you set your benefits right.
  4. Apply online once you are sure of enrollment deadlines for the plan you are choosing.
  5. In order to apply online, you must have a “my social security account”.
  6. For information on setting up a “my Social Security account” go to https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/create.html
  7. Once you have your account gather the information you need in order to apply online. No documents are needed but you must have the following information.
    • Date and Place of Birth
    • Medicaid Number (if applicable)
    • Health Insurance Information including start and end date of your current or last job. Start and end date of group health insurance provided by your employer.
  8. You can only apply for Part B online if you are also applying for Part A.
  9. Go to https://secure.ssa.gov/iClaim/rib to enroll. Follow the online instructions.

Applying by Phone

  1. Go online to https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10043.pdf
  2. Download the copy of Medicare Enrollment Booklet.
  3. Know the details of the plan you are choosing so you set your benefits right and enrollment deadlines for the plan you are choosing.
  4. Gather the documents you will need for information when applying. They are the same as you would need online.
  5. Call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). If they are busy, they will set an appointment to enroll you or do it right then.
  6. Your representative will send you forms to fill out and mail back. In order to use this option, you need to be enrolling at least 30-60 days before the start date of Medicare.

Applying in Person

  1. Locate your local Social Security Office.
  2. Go online to https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10043.pdf
  3. Download the copy of Medicare Enrollment Booklet
  4. Know the details of the plan you are choosing so you set your benefits right and enrollment deadlines for the plan you are choosing.
  5. Gather the documents you will need for information when applying.
  6. Take with you:
    • Proof of identity – state ID
    • Birth certificate
    • Social Security card
    • Medicaid Number (if applicable)
    • Health Insurance Information including start and end date of your current or last job. Start and end date of group health insurance provided by your employer.
  7. After you are finished with the SSA representative, ask for a copy of your record showing when you enrolled in Part A and B (D if you also enrolled). You will need this information if you choose to purchase a Medicare supplement and/or Part D.

Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)

  1. Contact the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) at 1-877-772-5772 (TTY  1-312-751-4701).
  2. Speak with a Railroad Retirement Board representative.
  3. Have the same information/documents available.