How to Apply to for Medicare Online, In Person or Over the Phone

This guide can help you navigate the enrollment process for each part of Medicare and for different types of Medicare coverage.

If you’re ready to sign up for Medicare online, in person or over the phone, you can do so in the following ways:

  • Online at the Social Security Administration website
  • Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users 1-800-0778), Monday through Friday, from 7AM to 7PM
  • Apply in-person at your local Social Security office

If you want to apply for a Medicare Advantage plan, you can call to speak with a licensed insurance agent who can help you compare your plan options.

Compare Medicare Advantage plans in your area

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Or call TTY Users: 711 24/7 to speak with a licensed insurance agent.

Learn more about each type of Medicare coverage and find out more about how and when you can enroll.

Medicare Part A and Part B (Original Medicare)

Part A of Medicare provides coverage for inpatient care at hospitals, skilled nursing homes and for hospice care, among other services related to inpatient care. 

Medicare Part B provides coverage for outpatient care such as doctor’s appointments, and it also covers medical equipment and supplies.

Original Medicare eligibility

Even when you turn 65, you still have to meet a few more requirements to be eligible for Medicare.

You are eligible for Part A and Part B at 65 if:

  • You are a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident who has lived in the U.S. for five continuous years
  • You or your spouse have worked long enough to be eligible for Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits
  • You or your spouse are government employees or retirees who have not paid into Social Security but have paid Medicare payroll taxes

Just because you aren’t 65 doesn’t mean you don’t qualify for Medicare.

You can still receive Medicare benefits under 65 if you:

  • Have been receiving Social Security disability benefits or certain Railroad Retirement Board disability benefits for at least 24 months
  • You have ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease)
  • You have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and you or your spouse have paid Social Security taxes for a certain length of time

Most people are eligible for premium-free Part A due to the Medicare taxes they paid while working. If you have to pay for Medicare Part A, you could pay up to $437 per month in 2019.

Unlike Medicare Part A, Part B is optional. This means that you are not required to sign up for Medicare Part B coverage. The standard premium for Medicare Part B in 2019 is $135.50 per month, though you could pay more depending on your income

If you decide to apply for Medicare Part B at a later time, however, you may be responsible for paying a Part B late enrollment fee.

When to apply for Original Medicare

Some people are enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B automatically.

You may be enrolled automatically if one of the following situations applies to you:

  • You are turning 65 and already get Social Security benefits or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits.
  • You are under 65, have a qualifying disability or disease, and have been getting Social Security or RRB benefits for over 24 months.
  • You have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease.

If you are automatically enrolled, you will get a Medicare card in the mail 3 months before your 65th birthday, or your 25th month of disability.

Your coverage will begin on the first day of the month that you turn 65.

If you are not enrolled in Medicare automatically, you need to apply during an enrollment period. Enrollment periods are windows when you can join Medicare.

The following are the 3 enrollment periods to join Medicare Parts A and B:

  • Initial Enrollment Period
  • Special Enrollment Period
  • General Enrollment Period

Medicare Initial Enrollment Period

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

If you do need to manually sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B, you can do so when you first become eligible, which is typically three months before your 65th birthday.

This marks the start of your seven-month Initial Enrollment Period, which lasts through the month of your 65th birthday and lasts for another three months. 

Here is an example of how the IEP works: If you turn 65 on June 5, your IEP starts on March 1 (3 full months before June) and ends on September 30 (3 full months after June).

Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs)

After your Initial Enrollment Period, you may be eligible to sign up for Medicare Part A through a Special Enrollment Period.

Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs) allow you to enroll in Medicare after your IEP ends. You may qualify for a SEP if you or a spouse was working and covered by an employment-based group health plan during your IEP. (Note: COBRA and retiree health plans are not considered employment-based group health plans.)

If this situation applies to you, you can enroll in Medicare Parts A and B during the following periods:

  • Any time when you or your spouse is working and still covered by the group health plan
  • During an 8-month period after either employment or group coverage ends, whichever happens first

You may be eligible for an SEP for other reasons. SEPs can allow someone to enroll, drop or switch plans, based on certain circumstances — such as moving, Medicaid eligibility or qualifying for extra help.

There are several specific reasons you might qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, so be sure to check your eligibility if you think you’re qualified.

General Enrollment Period (GEP)

If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period and don’t qualify for Special Enrollment, you can sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B during the Medicare General Enrollment Period, which lasts from January 1 through March 31 every year.

Your coverage won’t begin until July 1, however. If you pay a premium for Part A, you could also pay a late enrollment penalty.

If you don't sign up for Medicare Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period, you could potentially have to pay a Part B late enrollment period for the rest of the time that you have Part B coverage.

How to sign up for Original Medicare

If you want to sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B, you can contact Social Security to get started.

If you need to manually sign up for Medicare Part B, you can complete the Application for Enrollment in Part B (CMS-40B)

If you wish to opt out of Part B, you must contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit your local Social Security office.  

How to enroll in Medicare Part A and/or Part B online

Eligible applicants may apply online with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Before applying, you should have the following information ready:

  • Date and place of birth
  • Medicaid number and start/end dates (if applicable)
  • Current health insurance information

After your application is submitted, you will be contacted by an SSA representative if they need any additional information. Accepted applicants should receive a decision letter and a Medicare card in the mail.

Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage plans)

Part C of Medicare, otherwise known as Medicare Advantage, provides all the same coverage as Medicare Part A and Part B under one plan sold by a private insurance company.

Many Medicare Advantage plans also offer other benefits such as coverage for prescription drugs, dental, vision, hearing aids and other services not covered by Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B).

Medicare Part C Eligibility

Medicare Advantage eligibility first requires enrollment in Medicare Part A and Part B.

You must also live in the area serviced by the Medicare Advantage plan you’re applying for, and in most cases, you cannot have end-stage renal disease (ESRD) to qualify for a plan.

When to apply for Medicare Part C

You can sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan during your Initial Enrollment Period. As mentioned above, this is the seven-month period that begins three months before you turn 65, includes your birth month and lasts for three additional months. 

As with Medicare Part A and Part B, if you miss your Initial Enrollment Period, you may be able to apply for a Medicare Advantage plan during a Special Enrollment Period, if you qualify.

Medicare AEP

The other time you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan is during the annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans, which is also called the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP).

If you already have a Medicare Advantage plan, or if you have other forms of Medicare coverage and want to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan, you can do so during this time of year.

How to sign up for Medicare Part C

Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance companies.

One way to enroll is to first connect with a licensed insurance agent who will help you review available plan options in your area and assist you with the application process.

 

Compare Medicare Advantage plans in your area

Compare Plans

Or call TTY Users: 711 24/7 to speak with a licensed insurance agent.

Medicare Part D enrollment (prescription drug plans)

Medicare Part D is comprised of plans that provide coverage solely for prescription medications. These plans are sold by private insurance companies.

Medicare Part D Eligibility 

In order to be eligible for a Medicare Part D plan, you must be enrolled in either Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan that does not include coverage for prescription drugs.

When to apply for Medicare Part D

You can enroll in a Medicare Part D plan as soon as you become eligible for Medicare coverage.

If you don’t enroll in Medicare Part D when you first become eligible and you don’t have other creditable prescription drug coverage, you may have to pay a Part D late enrollment penalty.

How to sign up for Medicare Part D

Like Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Part D plans are sold by private insurance companies, so it may be helpful to contact a licensed insurance agent who can help you shop for plans in your area.

Call  TTY Users: 711 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to speak with a licensed insurance agent.

Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap)

Medicare Supplement Insurance, also known as Medigap, provides coverage for certain out-of-pocket Medicare costs.

These expenses can include things like deductibles, coinsurance, copayments and emergency care received outside of the U.S. 

Medicare Supplement Insurance Eligibility

To be eligible for a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan, you must be enrolled in Original Medicare and live in the area that the plan you want services. 

Not all states require Medicare Supplement Insurance plans to be available to people under 65, even if they qualify for Original Medicare because of a disability.

Learn more about Medigap plans in your state.

When to apply for Medicare Supplement Insurance

The earliest time that you can enroll in a Medicare Supplement Insurance policy is during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period.

If you sign up for a Medigap policy outside of your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, insurance companies can charge you higher premiums or deny your application due to your age and health.

You may not have a Medicare Advantage plan and a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan at the same time.

Get more help applying for a Medicare Advantage plan

If you have more questions about applying for Medicare, speak with a licensed insurance agent who can help you review the plan options available where you live. 

Compare Medicare Advantage plans in your area

Compare Plans

Or call TTY Users: 711 24/7 to speak with a licensed insurance agent.