Most Americans become eligible for Medicare on turning 65. Your enrollment steps, however, will differ depending on whether you’re receiving retirement benefits when you enter your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) – the seven months comprising the month of your 65th birthday, the three months before, and the three months after.
If you are collecting Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits when you enter your IEP, you will be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare.
If you are eligible for automatic enrollment, you should receive a package from the Social Security Administration (SSA) or the Railroad Retirement Board three months before your coverage starts. This will contain your new Medicare card and a letter explaining how the system works and that you were automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B.
To pay less for health care in the future, it is recommended that you not turn down Part B, as you may incur a premium penalty if you need to sign up later.
If you are not receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits when you turn 65, you will need to sign up for Medicare on your own.
If you decide to actively enroll in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period, you can sign up for Parts A and/or B by following the steps listed below:
- Apply in person at your local Social Security office or online at www.ssa.gov.
- Calling 800-772-1213,
- Mail a signed and dated letter to Social Security with your name, Social Security number, and the date you would like to be enrolled in Medicare, or
- If you are eligible for Railroad Retirement benefits, call the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) or contact your local RRB field office
In the unlikely event that your application is lost, make sure to keep proof of when you tried to enroll in Medicare. This will help to protect yourself from incurring a Part B premium penalty.
If you make a call, make a note of the names of any representatives you speak to, along with the time and date. Use certified mail and request a return receipt if you enroll through the mail, or ask for a written receipt if you enroll at your local Social Security office. If you apply online, download a copy of the confirmation page that you can print out.