Who Needs to Fill Out a Medicare Enrollment Application?1
If you are not ready to get Social Security or disability benefits yet, you will need to complete an application for Medicare.
If you live in Puerto Rico or a foreign country, you will need to complete an application for Medicare.
When Should I Apply for Medicare Benefits?
If you’re an American citizen age 65 or older, you can apply for Medicare as early as three months before your 65th birthday through the three months after your 65th birthday. For example, if your birthday is in April, your enrollment window is from the beginning January until the end of July. This period of time is called your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP).2
If you miss this initial enrollment date, you can apply during a “general enrollment period” from January 1 through March 31. You may have to pay a late penalty if you enroll after your IEP.2
If you have a disability, when and how you enroll depends on your condition:
- If you’re eligible for Medicare due to a disability you will be automatically enrolled (typically after 24 months of disability payments).3
- If you have ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), you will be automatically enrolled the month your disability benefits begin.4
- If you have End Stage Renal disease (ESRD), you’ll need to complete an application for Medicare with Social Security.5
If you have health insurance through an employer that has fewer than 20 employees, you should apply for Medicare Parts A & B as soon as you’re eligible. If there are more than 20 employees, it’s most likely that you can delay your Medicare enrollment or apply only for premium-free Part A (if you are eligible). Check with your benefits manager for details on your company’s plan.6
Do I need to sign up for Original Medicare if I want Medicare Advantage?7
Yes. If you choose Medicare Advantage, you must first apply for Original Medicare to establish your Medicare Part A & B coverage. Once your application is accepted, you can then apply for your Medicare Advantage plan.
Similarly, your Original Medicare application needs to be accepted prior to enrolling in a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan.8
Do I need to sign up for both Medicare Part A and Part B?
When signing up for Original Medicare, you do not have to enroll in both Part A and Part B unless you do not qualify for premium-free Part A.2
If you don’t qualify for premium-free Part A coverage, you can purchase it. However, you must also purchase Part B. While you can also choose to purchase Part B only (when paying for Part A), you will not be able to purchase Part A by itself.8
If you do qualify for premium-free Part A, Part B comes with a monthly premium and is optional. However, if you don’t enroll in Part B when you’re first eligible, you may be subject to a late penalty for as long as you have the coverage.2
How to Sign Up for Medicare Parts A & B9
There are three ways to complete an application for Medicare Parts A & B (Original Medicare):
- For an online application: Go to https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare/ and click Apply for Medicare Only. The Social Security Administration recommends this option to save you time.
- By phone: Call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY/RTT 1-800-325-0778).
- In person: Make an appointment with your local Social Security office.
If you don’t live in the U.S. or a U.S. territory, contact the Federal Benefits Unit that provides service to your residence.
How to Sign Up for Medicare Advantage, Prescription Drug Plans, and Medicare Supplement Plans
After your application for Medicare has been accepted, you’re all set to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C), Prescription Drug plan (Part D), or Medicare Supplement Insurance plan (Medigap).
Our FitScore® technology compares plans from multiple insurance companies to match you with the plans that fit your needs. The higher the score, the better the fit. The easy way to compare plans and get quotes is to visit the HealthMarkets.com shopping experience.
*Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed this information. No cost or obligation to enroll.
1. Social Security Administration. “Apply Online for Medicare — Even if You Are Not Ready to Retire.” June 2020. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10530.pdf
2. Social Security Administration. “Medicare.” November 2019. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10043.pdf
3. U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/getting-medicare-if-you-have-a-disability. Accessed November 17, 2020.
4. U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/how-do-i-get-parts-a-b. Accessed November 17, 2020.
5. U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/manage-your-health/i-have-end-stage-renal-disease-esrd. Access November 17, 2020.
6. U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/how-do-i-get-parts-a-b/should-i-get-parts-a-b. Accessed November 17, 2020.
7. U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Understanding Medicare Advantage Plans.” November 2020. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/12026-Understanding-Medicare-Advantage-Plans.pdf.
8. U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Medicare and You.”2021. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/10050-Medicare-and-You.pdf
9. Social Security Administration. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare/. Accessed December 9, 2020.