It’s best to think of signing up for Medicare as a (long) 2-step process. First, you need to sign up for Medicare Parts A and/or B directly through the government. Timing is very important when it comes to signing up; delaying your enrollment could result in permanent late penalties. We’ve created a simple step-by-step guide to creating your own personal Medicare enrollment timeline to help you avoid any hiccups or missed deadlines.
Once you’re enrolled and your official Medicare card arrives in your mailbox, you can shop for additional coverage. Luckily, there are multiple ways to complete both steps, which we’ll explore now.
Signing up for Original Medicare
If you don’t meet the requirements of automatic enrollment, there are a number of ways to enroll in Original Medicare. You can apply online, in person, or by phone — just choose the option that’s best for you! Note that you only need to sign up for Original Medicare once.
First, in order to sign up you’ll need:
- Your birth certificate or other proof of birth
- Proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residence if you weren’t born in the U.S.
- Social security card if you’re already drawing benefits
- Health insurance information including the type of coverage and effective dates of coverage
- Employment information if applicable, such as a W-2 form
- U.S. military discharge papers if you served in the military before 1968
The only way to sign up online for Original Medicare online is through SSA.gov, the official Social Security website. Luckily, the site has an application that can be completed quickly. If you’re eligible and ready to enroll, click here to start a new application on SSA.gov. And don’t worry; while the SSA manages the eligibility component, you don’t have to be receiving social security benefits to get Medicare. If you’d like to learn more about which benefits you are eligible for, use our free Social Security Optimizer.
When signing up for Original Medicare, make sure you are on Social Security’s official government website. Other sites that claim to process Original Medicare enrollment are typically using your information for marketing purposes. They will not push your information through to the Social Security Administration.
Sign up by phone
To apply for Original Medicare by phone, you can call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
When you call Social Security, you may not always be helped immediately, especially if the call volume is high. You can call Social Security’s main number provided above to schedule an appointment for a phone interview at a time that works well for you.
Medicare applications submitted over the phone may take longer to process than those submitted via phone or in person. There are typically forms that have to be mailed to you, filled out, and returned, which can cause delays. Think about using the phone option if you have a few months to spare before you’d like to enroll in Medicare.
Applying in person
If you’d rather sign up for Medicare in person, you can go to your local social security office. This is a good option if you’re close to turning 65 and need to get your application in quickly. You can search for social security offices near you here. This is also the enrollment method we’d recommend if you have a lot of special considerations or questions you’d like to have answered, or if you do not want to part ways with your important documents, such as your birth certificate or green card.
Shopping for Additional Coverage
There are several online options for reviewing and enrolling in Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, or Part D plans. If you’re ready to begin browsing plans available in your area, you may want to consider an online broker like Renew. In addition to educational content and tools, you can also get advice and personalized recommendations from one of our licensed Medicare agents, and shop for plans when you’re ready.
Just remember that in order to sign up for Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, or Part D plans, you’ll typically need some personal information (such as your social security number), and your current Medicare card.
Brokers are individuals or agencies that contract with insurance companies to sell their Medicare plans. While they’re typically free for you to use, they do receive a commission for signing you up for a plan, as well as for every month they remain your “broker of record”. They must be licensed by the state, but they’re not obligated to sell all of the plans available in your area. In fact, some may sell only one company’s plans, so you may be missing out on the best option for you.
However, a broker could help you save time by wading through all of the nuances of Medicare, especially if you have special circumstances affecting your retirement. While there is plenty of information on Medicare available, it’s still easy to miss something and make a mistake that could end up costing you down the road. Just make sure you’re working with someone you trust who has your best interests in mind.
You can also purchase Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, and Part D plans directly through the insurance companies that offer them. This could be a good option for you if you’re sure you want to continue with your current insurance company, or if the company doesn’t offer their plans through third parties like brokers or websites. You can read more about changing Medicare plans in this article.