Summary: Some individuals are enrolled in Medicare automatically, while others must sign up for their coverage. In this article, we’ll explain who will need to sign up for Medicare through Social Security, and what considerations should be made prior to signing up. Estimated Read Time: 6 min
Do You Sign Up for Medicare?
Medicare is a federal health insurance program that is available for people aged 65 or older, and people with disabilities or certain illnesses. Some individuals are automatically enrolled in Medicare, while others must sign up for Medicare through the Social Security Administration. If you do not automatically get Medicare, it is important to understand how and when you must sign up.
You will not need to sign up for Medicare if any of the following applies to you:
- You are receiving Social Security benefits prior to turning 65
- You’re receiving Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits
- You are under 65 and have been receiving disability benefits for 24 months
- You have ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease
If any of the above apply to you, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare and do not have to sign up.
If you are close to turning 65 but are not receiving Social Security or RRB benefits, you will have to sign up for Medicare. You will also need to register for Medicare if you have End-Stage Renal Disease and want Medicare coverage. For most, your Initial Enrollment Period begins three months prior to your 65th birthday.
At this time, you can sign up for Original Medicare, and explore additional coverage options such as Medicare Supplement plans, Medicare Advantage plans, and Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plans.
Where Do I Sign Up for Medicare?
When you are ready to apply for Medicare, you will either need to contact Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board. If you or your spouse worked for a railroad, you will need to contact the Railroad Retirement Board. Otherwise, you will need to contact Social Security.
You can apply for Medicare online on the official Social Security Administration website or contact your local Social Security Office by phone. When signing up for Medicare through Social Security, you can only enroll in Original Medicare (Parts A and B). If you wish to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D drug plan, you will need to contact plan providers after you enroll in Original Medicare.
If you have ESRD and would like to apply for Medicare, you will need to contact Social Security by phone.
Whether you’re signing up online, or over the phone, you’ll need to have the following information readily available:
- Your social security number
- The city, state, and country where you were born
- Start and end dates of any current group health plans
- Start and end dates of any group health plans after age 65
You may be wondering why you sign up for Medicare through Social Security (or the Railroad Retirement Board). Social Security is responsible for checking if you are eligible for Medicare. They will also check if you (or your spouse) paid Medicare taxes long enough to get a $0 premium for Medicare Part A.
Signing Up for Social Security and Medicare
Since you must apply for Medicare through Social Security, you can sign up for retirement benefits and Medicare at the same time. If you’re 65 and older and want to apply for both Medicare and Social Security benefits, you can do so by applying online or by calling Social Security.
Keep in mind that if you are receiving Social Security benefits and enroll in Medicare Part B, your monthly Part B premium will be deducted from your monthly benefit amount.
You can apply for Social Security retirement benefits between age 62 and 70. Though you can sign up for Social Security benefits prior to age 65, you will not be able to get Medicare coverage until you turn 65 (unless you have a disability). If you are receiving Social Security benefits prior to age 65, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B once you turn 65.
Do I Have to Sign Up for Medicare Every Year?
Once you sign up for Medicare, you typically do not have to sign up again to retain your coverage. Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage Plans, Medigap Plans, and Medicare Part D automatically renew unless you choose to make changes to your coverage.
If you’re enrolled in a Medicare plan (such as an Advantage plan or drug plan), you will receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) each fall from your plan provider. This notice should arrive in September, ahead of the Annual Enrollment Period, and will detail any changes to your plan including coverage, costs, and more.
It’s essential to review this notice each year to determine if your plan is still the best option for you. If you want to change or drop coverage, you can do so during the Annual Enrollment Period, which runs from October 15th to December 7th. If no action is taken, your plans will automatically be renewed.
Considerations Before Signing Up for Medicare
There are several considerations you should make prior to signing up for Medicare. You’ll want to make sure you get the right coverage for your medical needs, as well as your budget.
Which Medicare Parts Should I Sign Up For?
Each part of Medicare provides different coverage. When preparing to sign up for Medicare, consider your current and future healthcare needs and choose coverage that best meets those needs.
When you initially sign up for Medicare, you have the choice to sign up for Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. You may choose to only sign up for Medicare Part A and delay your Part B coverage. Remember, if you do not have creditable coverage and you delay Medicare Part B, you may be subject to a late enrollment penalty.
If you would like to sign up for a Medicare Part C or Medicare Supplement plan, you will need to enroll in both parts of Original Medicare (Part A and Part B).
If you want to enroll in a Medicare Part D drug plan, you are only required to have Medicare Part A and/or Part B.
Medicare Supplement plans, also known as Medigap plans, are also available for those who enroll in Original Medicare. These plans help fill in the cost “gaps” left behind by Original Medicare.
How Will Signing Up for Medicare Impact My Budget?
When signing up for Medicare, consider how Medicare costs will impact your monthly and annual expenses. Premiums, deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance are all out-of-pocket costs that you will be responsible for paying when you enroll in Medicare.
Medicare Premiums – Premiums are monthly amounts you must pay to maintain coverage. Many individuals qualify for a $0 Part A premium.
Medicare Deductibles – Deductibles are annual amounts you must meet before Medicare begins paying. Medicare Part A’s deductible works differently than the others.
Medicare Copays & Coinsurance – Copayments and coinsurance vary between services. Typically, you’ll pay a 20% coinsurance for most Medicare Part B covered services.
There are programs available such as Medicare Savings Programs and Extra Help, that assist with the costs of Medicare. If you have limited income or resources, these programs may be able to help you pay for your coverage.
Get Help Signing up for Medicare
Signing up for Medicare is important for maintaining health coverage and ensuring you don’t incur late enrollment penalties. If you need help signing up for Medicare, our team of licensed insurance agents are here to help. Give us a call, and our agents can help you understand your coverage options and answer any questions you may have.
Deciding Whether to Enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B When You Turn 65, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Accessed August 2023.
When to Sign Up for Medicare, Social Security. Accessed August 2023.
Medicare & You 2023, Medicare. Accessed August 2023.