# March, 05, 2020

How Do You Apply for Medicare?

Throughout your life, it often feels as though you’re just expected to know how to do certain things. It starts when you’re young and figuring out how to make friends. The feeling continues throughout your life, including when it’s time to apply for Medicare.

This post tells you how to sign up for Medicare. We also offer tips and tricks to help you decide which type of coverage is best for you and how to make the most of your Medicare benefits.

Do You Always Have to Apply for Medicare?

If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits three months before your 65th birthday, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. Railroad Retirement Board beneficiaries also enjoy automatic enrollment in Medicare. In addition, people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance for 24 months are automatically enrolled in Medicare in month 25.

Everyone else must apply for Medicare.

Apply for Medicare at Social Security

You apply for Medicare through Social Security. You have three options:

  1. Apply online
  2. Call Social Security at 800-772-1213
  3. Visit your local Social Security office

You may enroll in Medicare three months before the month of your 65th birthday. This is known as your Initial Enrollment Period, or IEP. It lasts through the three months following the month of your birthday, giving you seven full months to sign up for Medicare.

Do You Receive Notification Once You’re Eligible for Medicare?

If you begin receiving Social Security benefits before you turn 65, Social Security notifies you, via mail, that you’re eligible for Medicare. However, if you are not collecting Social Security at the time you become eligible for Medicare, you will not be notified.

Social Security always communicates by mail

Please note that Social Security will not call you unless you have specifically requested a call. All communication through both Social Security and Medicare is via U.S. mail. If anyone calls you claiming to be from Social Security, hang up the phone and call the 800-number listed above.

Although the government doesn’t notify you when you become eligible for Medicare, you’ll likely begin receiving mailers from private insurance companies and brokers. This information can help you choose the right coverage for your unique needs.

Do You Need to Apply for Both Part A and Part B?

Unless you have creditable coverage, you should sign up for both Part A and Part B as soon as you become eligible for Medicare. Enrolling in both parts when you turn 65 ensures you do not experience any coverage gaps. It also protects you against lifelong late fees.

The most common type of creditable coverage is an employer-sponsored plan. If you or your spouse are still working when you turn 65 AND the company employs more than 20 people, insurance through that employer qualifies as creditable coverage. For full details, please see our article: What Is Medicare Creditable Coverage?

Choosing Your Medicare Coverage

Medicare provides numerous benefits, but it doesn’t cover prescription medications. You’ll also have a variety of out-of-pocket costs.

There are two main options for supplementing your Medicare coverage. Each choice has its own pros and cons. Determining which is best for you depends entirely on your unique situation.

Original Medicare + Part D + Medigap

Original Medicare includes Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). You can get prescription drug coverage by adding a Part D plan. Please note that going 63 days without creditable drug coverage could land you with lifelong late penalties. We highly recommend enrolling in a Medicare Part D plan when you first sign up for Medicare.

You can also add a Medicare Supplement Plan, commonly referred to as Medigap, to help cover some of your out-of-pocket costs. Benefits and costs vary depending on which Medigap plan you choose. At a minimum, though, all Medigap plans cover your hospital co-insurance and give you an extra 365 hospital reserve days.

You don’t face late fees for not choosing a Medigap plan. However, your Initial Enrollment Period is the only time you don’t undergo medical underwriting. Our post, What Is Medicare Supplement Insurance, explains everything you need to know about Medigap.

One reason Original Medicare remains the more popular option is that you can go to any provider who accepts assignment. This includes primary care doctors, specialists, labs, hospitals, and any other entity you rely on for healthcare. If you travel a lot or live half the year in one state and the other half in another, Original Medicare is likely the better choice for you.

Healthcare coverage with Medicare

Medicare Advantage Plans

Medicare Advantage (MA) plans become more popular every year, with around one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries choosing an MA plan. Although plan options vary widely, every MA plan must provide the same coverage as Medicare Part B. However, most Advantage plans offer additional benefits as well. Prescription drug coverage is the most common additional benefit, but others may include:

  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Hearing

You also find Medicare Advantage plans that cover benefits like gym memberships.

There are three main drawbacks to Medicare Advantage plans.

  • You still have to pay your Part B premium, even if your MA plan has a premium
  • Most MA plans have provider networks, so they aren’t travel-friendly
  • You cannot enroll in both Medicare Advantage and a Medigap plan

If you’d like to compare your Part D and MA plan options, our Find a Plan tool makes it easy. Just enter your location, estimated start date, and hit Continue.

Complete the Medicare Checklist

Make the most of your Medicare coverage by doing the following:

  • Complete an Authorization Form. This tells Medicare which person or persons they can share your personal health information with.
  • Complete your Welcome to Medicare preventive screening. It’s free and you have 12 months to do it (assuming you signed up for Part B). It’s similar to an annual wellness visit but designed to help acclimate you to Medicare.
  • Create your Medicare.gov account. This is where you can pay premiums, access personal health information, view claims, and much more.
  • Get the Medicare & You handbook. You can get this electronically, via U.S. mail, or even in audio format.

Remember, unless you’re already collecting Social Security benefits before you turn 65, you must apply for Medicare. Of course, now you know how.


Chris Gasparini

Chris Gasparini has been a licensed insurance agent since 2005. He enjoys helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate their options to find the best solution for their unique needs. Chris feels as though his work truly helps people. Because he represents multiple insurance companies and plan types, Chris is able to help Medicare beneficiaries find the best, most cost-effective plan. Every day, he leaves work knowing he did what was right for each and every client he serves.

The MedicareUSA website is operated by HealthPlanOne, LLC a licensed health insurance agency based in Connecticut; in California d/b/a HPOne Insurance Agency, license #OF30784. HealthPlanOne, is a licensed and certified representative of Medicare Advantage HMO, PPO and PPFS organizations and stand-alone prescription drug plans with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in any plan depends on contract renewal.

For a complete list of available plans please contact 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048), 24 hours a day/7 days a week or consult www.medicare.gov.

The purpose of this communication is the solicitation of insurance. Contact will be made by an insurance agent/producer or insurance company.

Medicare supplement plans are not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. Government or the federal Medicare program.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) does not review or approve Medicare Supplement plan information.

Other Pharmacies are available in the plans' networks.

Last Updated 12/21/2018