How to Sign Up for Medicare
Most people become eligible for Medicare at age 65 if they or their spouse contributed to Social Security for at least ten years. People younger than 65 who have a qualifying disability may also be eligible to receive Medicare benefits. How you enroll in Medicare depends on your situation and on whether you choose Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan.
Enrolling in Original Medicare
Original Medicare is federal health insurance that includes Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). If you are already receiving Social Security benefits, Medicare will send you an Initial Enrollment Period package three months before you become eligible for benefits. If you are not yet receiving Social Security benefits, you will need to contact your local Social Security office and sign up to enroll in Medicare.
Once you’re enrolled in Original Medicare, you’ll receive your Medicare card in the mail. If you decide that Original Medicare meets your needs, just sign the card and you’re all set. You will have Part A and Part B coverage. For most people, Medicare Part A is premium-free. Medicare Part B comes with a monthly premium based on your adjusted gross income. Many people choose to have their Part B premiums deducted from their Social Security payments.
You may refuse or delay Part B coverage. Some people do this if, for example, they are continuing coverage under an employer or other health plan. If you do decide to delay Part B and enroll at a later date, you can sign up during the General Enrollment Period—January 1 - March 31 each year—but you may have to pay a higher monthly premium.
There are Special Enrollment Periods for those who delay Part B. If you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period and sign up at that time, there is no late enrollment penalty. It’s important to inform Medicare if you want to delay Part B. Just follow the instructions that come with your Medicare card.
Enrolling in a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan
Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C) are available from private insurance companies approved by Medicare. They offer all the benefits of Original Medicare and often offer benefits that Original Medicare does not. This may include coverage for prescription drugs (Medicare Part D) plus vision, hearing and dental care, frequently for no additional monthly premium. Some plans may offer 24-hour nurse lines, preventive care and discounts for gym memberships. You may pay a copay or coinsurance for these services when you use them.
To enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you must be eligible for Medicare and accept Medicare Part B. You will need to continue to pay your Part B premium to Medicare. Some, but not all, Medicare Advantage plans may charge a monthly premium that you must pay in addition to the Part B premium you pay to Medicare.
Prescription drug plans (Medicare Part D) are also available from private insurance companies. These are standalone Part D plans that provide drug coverage to people with Original Medicare or with a Medicare Advantage plan that does not already include it. Standalone prescription drug plans charge a separate premium.
You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or a prescription drug plan through the insurance company offering it or through the Medicare website, medicare.gov. Plan benefits and terms vary by region, and not all plans are available everywhere. Medicare offers online tools that can help you find plans in your area.
To learn more, contact Medicare Made Clear at 1-877-619-5582 (TTY 711), 8 a.m. - 8 p.m., 7 days a week. You may also call the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.
Who is Eligible for Medicare?
Medicare Enrollment Windows and Timing
How to Use the Medicare Plan Finder
Y0066_110725_130917 File & Use 08032011