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How to Apply to Medicare

Medicare is available for people age 65 or older, to younger people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD or permanent kidney failure). Anyone currently receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) is automatically entitled to Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). In these instances, coverage begins the first day of the month that you turn 65.

No application or registration is necessary for those already receiving benefits from SSA or the RRB. Your Medicare card will arrive approximately three months before the month you become eligible for Medicare.

Manual Application

For those who are not automatically enrolled, the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is the period of time in which you may first enroll into Medicare. It starts three months before you become eligible for Medicare and lasts for seven months.

If you were not receiving SSA or RRB benefits, you may apply for Medicare online when you file for retirement or disability. Additionally, you are free to apply for just Medicare if you choose to delay your retirement benefits. Those who would prefer to apply by phone may call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Medicare Part B can be optional

Medicare Part B requires a monthly premium. Because of this, you may refuse Part B coverage during your registration or if you are automatically enrolled. You will receive a packet of information in the mail a few months before your Medicare eligibility kicks in telling you everything you need to know about registration (including opting out of Medicare Part B).

Please note that residents of Puerto Rico or foreign countries will not receive Part B automatically. They must elect this benefit.

Your Medicare Part B start date will be delayed if you wait until you are 65, or sing up during the last three months of your Initial Enrollment Period.

A Special Enrollment Period (SEP) is available if you delayed Medicare Part B enrollment due to existing group health coverage through a current employer or union.

Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C)

The enrollment process for Medicare Advantage will differ depending on insurance company offering the plan you are interested in. However, the period in which to join remains the same. Eligible beneficiaries enrolled in Part A and Part B can enroll during their Initial Enrollment Period, which begins three months before they become Medicare eligible and lasting for seven months.

Those already enrolled in Original Medicare must wait until the next enrollment period before signing up for Medicare Advantage coverage. The Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans lasts from October 15 through December 7. If you enroll during this time, coverage begins on January 1 of the following year.