Original Medicare Application Process
How to Apply for Medicare
The steps for how to apply for Medicare program are fairly straight-forward. If you receive benefits from Social Security of the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) you are automatically enrolled in Original Medicare (a.k.a. Part A) beginning the first day of the month you turn sixty-five. You shouldn’t have to pay a monthly premium for Part A if you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes while working. If this is not the case, you may still be able to buy Part A if you meet certain criteria outlined by Social Security. If you aren’t receiving Social Security or RRB benefits because you are still working, you must sign up for Part A. To enroll in part A, apply online at Social Security, visit Social Security office, or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778. You must enroll three months before you turn sixty-five to enroll during the Initial Enrollment Period-the seven-month period beginning three months before you turn 65, including the month you turn 65, and ending three months after the month you turn 65. If you are an automatic enrollee, your Medicare card will arrive in the mail three months before your sixty-fifth birthday.
Automatic Part A
If you are an automatic Part A enrollee you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B-the medical insurance component of Medicare at the same time, the first day of the month you turn sixty-five. Part B costs a standard premium amount for almost everyone. If you aren’t an automatic enrollee and choose not to enroll in Part B when you apply for Part A because you or your spouse are still working and on an employer’s plan, you may do so during the General Enrollment period (January 1-March 31 each year, coverage begins July 1) or the Special Enrollment Period. The Special Enrollment Period allows you to sign up for Part B anytime while you have employer-based group coverage or during the eight-month period after that employment or employer-based coverage ends (whichever happens first). If you enroll using the General Enrollment Period, you may be subject to a late enrollment penalty for not enrolling when you first became eligible. Most people who aren’t automatically enrolled in Part B may use this online application or call 1-800-MEDICARE to enroll.
Initial Enrollment Questionnaire
When you receive your Medicare card after enrolling in part A, you will also get an Initial Enrollment Questionnaire (IEQ). This brief survey asks about other health insurance you currently have (such as coverage through your employer or spouse’s employer), treatments you have received under liability insurance, or workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to. You may return this paper copy of the IEQ through the mail, complete the questionnaire online at MyMedicare.gov, or call the Coordination of Benefits Contractor at 1-800-999-1118 to complete it over the phone. You may also want to complete an Authorization Form which will permit Medicare to share personal health information about you with those you specify in writing (for instance, family members). Call 1-800-MEDICARE to ask that this form be mailed to you, or fill it out online at http://www.medicare.gov/MedicareOnlineForms/. MyMedicare.gov is a helpful and secure online service which allows you to keep track of your Medicare information and benefits; visit the site to sign up for its services after receiving your Medicare card.
Medicare Advantage Plans, Prescription Drug Plans, & Medicare Supplement Policies
Once you are enrolled in Medicare Parts A & B, three options to consider are Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C), Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Part D), and Medicare Supplement Policies (Medigap). Your first option, Medicare Advantage Plans are offered by private insurance companies which include all the benefits of Parts A & B and may include extra benefits like vision, hearing, dental, prescription, and wellness program coverage. In addition to your Part B premium, you would pay an additional amount in premium for this coverage. Medicare Advantage Plans include HMOs, PPOs, PFFS plans, MSAs and Special Needs Plans. You may enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan when you first become eligible for Medicare or during the Open Enrollment Period, between October 15-December 7.
Your second option is to add a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Coverage Plan through a private insurer. It is important to maintain prescription drug coverage without a break of more than sixty-three days or you may be charged a late enrollment penalty added to your Part D plan premium.
Your third option is to add a Medicare Supplement (or Medigap) Plan. Medicare Supplement does not change or add to your Medicare benefits, but rather is a private insurance plan meant to help fill in some of the gaps in payment left by Medicare Parts A & B, such as copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles for an addition monthly premium. The best time to enroll in a Medigap plan is in the six months after you initially become eligible for Medicare.