Medicare Application Process

How to Apply for Medicare

Automatic Enrollment

There are certain situations in which you may qualify for automatic enrollment in Medicare Parts A and B (Original Medicare). If you are automatically enrolled, you will receive your red, white, and blue Medicare card in the mail, three months before your 65th birthday or on your 25th month of disability.

  • If you have received benefits from either Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) for at least four months before turning 65, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B beginning the first day of the month you turn 65. If your birthday is the first day of the month, your coverage begins the first day of the prior month.
  • If you are under 65 and have a disability, you will automatically get Medicare Parts A and B after receiving disability benefits from Social Security or RRB for two years.
  • If you have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), you will automatically get Medicare Parts A and B the month your disability benefits begin.
  • If you live in Puerto Rico and get benefits from Social Security or the RRB, you will automatically get Medicare Part A, but if you want Part B as well, you will need to sign up for it. You can find the form here.

Signing Up for Medicare Parts A and B

If you’re not receiving RRB or Social Security, you will need to sign up for Medicare Parts A and B. If you qualify for Medicare because you have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), you will need to sign up as well. You can find forms for enrolling online here. You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-43327) TTY 1-877-486-2048.

Initial Enrollment Questionnaire (IEQ)

When you receive your Medicare card after enrolling in Medicare Part A, you will also get an Initial Enrollment Questionnaire. You can also find it at MyMedicare.gov. This brief questionnaire asks about other health insurance you currently have, such as coverage through your employer or your spouse’s employer, as well as 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 (TTY 1-800-318-8782) to complete it over the phone.

You can call 1-800-MEDICARE to ask that this form be mailed to you. MyMedicare.gov is a helpful and secure online service that 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, and Medicare Supplement Policies

Once you are enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B, three additional options you may consider are Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C), Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Part D), and Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap). Your first option, Medicare Advantage (MA) Plans, are offered by private insurance companies and include all the benefits of Medicare Parts A and B. MA plans may also include additional benefits, such as vision, hearing, dental, prescription, and wellness program coverage. In addition to your Medicare Part B premium, you would pay a premium for MA coverage. Examples of Medicare Advantage Plans are 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 which lasts from October 15 through December 7.

Your second option is to add a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan through a private insurer to cover the cost of prescription drugs. If you don’t maintain prescription drug coverage without a break of more than 63 days, you may be charged a late enrollment penalty in addition to your Part D plan premium.

Your third option is to add Medicare Supplement Insurance, or Medigap. This does not change or add to your Medicare benefits. Instead, it is a private insurance plan meant to cover some of the costs not covered by Medicare, such as co-insurance, co-payments, and deductibles. You may enroll in a Medigap plan during the six months after you enroll in Medicare Part B. This is the only period during which you cannot be denied a Medigap policy or charged a higher premium based on health issues. After this enrollment period, your Medigap application goes through the medical underwriting process, which may result in being refused coverage or charged a higher premium.