How Do I Sign Up for Medicare?

You may be wondering how to enroll in Medicare as you get older. If you have Social Security, enrollment is automatically made. You will need to enroll if you don’t have Social Security.

If you are already receiving Social Security, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare when you turn 65. If you aren’t receiving those benefits, you can enroll in one of three ways:

  • Applying online at Social Security’s site.
  • Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.
  • Visit a local Social Security office.

The average time to complete an online application is less than 10 minutes. You can make an appointment online or by phone to schedule a visit to the Social Security office.

Medicare is also available to younger people who get Social Security disability benefits. They are usually enrolled in Medicare after 24 months. Lou Gehrig’s Disease, also known by ALS, is a condition that automatically entitles people to Medicare coverage. They receive their first disability check the month after they have received their first Medicare coverage. Medicare coverage is available to people with kidney disease. Coverage typically begins on the first day after the fourth month of dialysis.

If it isn’t automatic, when to sign up

You should sign up at least three months prior to your 65th birthday if you are not automatically enrolled. This will ensure that coverage starts on your birthday month.

Technically, you have seven months to enroll around your birthday. You can delay your coverage if you wait to your birthday month, or for three months thereafter, to enroll. If you miss your initial window, there are several Medicare open enrollment periods that may apply to your situation.

Medicare is broken down into several parts

People automatically enrolled are usually enrolled in Medicare Part A which covers hospitals and Medicare Part B which covers doctor visits. Part A doesn’t usually have premiums but Part B does.

People who enroll themselves choose Part A and Part A, but some people delay signing up for Part A because they have other coverage. Delaying could result in penalties, so be sure to read the rules.

Private insurance companies may also offer additional coverage. If you want prescription drug coverage, for example, you can enroll in a Medicare Part D plan. Many people also buy Medicare supplement insurance or “Medigap” to cover co-pays, deductibles and other expenses Medicare doesn’t cover. After you start Part B, you have six months to choose a supplemental policy that has a “guaranteed problem,” which means the insurer won’t refuse you or charge more for any pre-existing conditions.

Another private insurance option to consider is Medicare Advantage, also known as Part C. These plans include all the benefits offered by Medicare Part A and Part B, as well as additional coverage.

Once you sign up for Medicare you will receive information about Medicare and how you can shop for additional coverage.