How to Apply for Medicare as a Senior: A Step-by-Step Guide

Updated on May 13, 2017

Have you wondered if you are eligible for Medicare? Age 65 is when most people become eligible for this coverage; the exceptions being if you have social security disability insurance, then Medicare begins after you have been on that insurance for 24 months if you’ve reached 65 or not. If you have ALS or other certain conditions, it begins the first month of your SSDI no matter what your age.

But for most of us, Medicare begins at 65 if you are a US citizen or a permanent resident who has lived in the US for at least five, continuous years. Or, if you are 65 and qualify for US social security benefits. However, not all benefits are equal and what you apply for depends on your personal situation. Here is how to apply:

1) Find out when you can enroll

Avoid late fees, which can be applied to your premium for as long as you’re enrolled! There are three enrollment periods: your initial enrollment, general enrollment, and special enrollment.

  1. Initial enrollment is when you can apply for Medicare A and B, which is hospital coverage and prescription coverage. This is the three months before, the month of, and three months after you are first eligible for Medicaid. For example, Bob is turning sixty five in June. Bob can apply for Medicare during the Initial Enrollment Period from March 1st through September 30th. REMEMBER: Coverage begins depending on when you apply, so the sooner you apply, the better!
  2. General enrollment – If you didn’t apply for Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period, don’t worry! You can apply during the General Enrollment Period, which is between January 1 and March 31. Your coverage will begin July First if you enroll at this time. Also note that if you live in Puerto Rico or any US territory, you will have to sign up for Medicare Part B during the initial enrollment period.
  3. Special Enrollment – If you are covered in a group plan (usually from work), including your spouse’s work plan, you have a special enrollment period that you may apply for Medicare under. This means you can wait after your 65trh birthday to apply if you or your spouse are working and would rather stay under their coverage. When this overage ends because you or your spouse retires, you can enroll the year they retire between April 1 and December 31. If you have worked for 10 years (40 quarters) and paid into Medicare during those years, you can enroll between April 1 and December 31 for Medicare Parts A and B. If you miss this deadline, you will have to wait until the next general enrollment period and may have to pay a higher premium.

2) Applying Online

Even if you’re not planning to retire, you can apply for Medicare if you meet the requirements here. It takes less than 10 minutes and is very easy to do! You can begin to apply in most cases when you are 64 years and nine months old. Make sure you have important information on hand such as your social security number (if you haven’t memorized it) and previous insurance information.

3) Applying In Person

You must visit your local Social Security office in order to apply for Medicare in person. If you are not good with computers, can drive long distances if necessary, and want to be walked through step-by-step, this could be the best option for you. If you do not live in the US or in a US Territory, you can apply for Medicare at a US Embassy or Consulate.

4) Applying by phone

Call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm Monday through Friday. If you are hard of hearing, call TTY 1-800-325-0778.

Hopefully, you've got enough information here to help you get started. Don't forget that information is power! If you don't understand part of the process, or even the whole thing- don't be afraid to call and ask questions!


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