Applying for Medicare

It may seem intimidating to apply for Medicare, but it is much easier than you think. Every year, we walk several people through the process of enrolling in Medicare, so keep reading to learn everything you need to know. Medicare Parts A and B applications are handled by the Social Security Administration; they provide several simple options for applying for Medicare. If you are approaching the age of 65, you can apply for Medicare as early as three months before your 65th birthday. 

When to Apply for Medicare

Your application for Social Security income benefits is independent of your Medicare application. People become eligible for Medicare at the age of 65, regardless of whether or not they are receiving retirement income benefits. If you are a senior citizen over the age of 65 and require medical coverage, you are eligible to enroll in Medicare. You shouldn’t expect Medicare to alert you when it’s time to enroll.

At the age of 65, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B if you are receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board payments. Your card should arrive one to two months before your 65th birthday. If you are not yet receiving retirement benefits, you will need to apply for Medicare on your own. The government wants you to be aware of when it is time to enroll. Let’s take a look at the timeframe for registering for Medicare and how to do it.

Initial Enrollment Period

For Medicare Parts A, B, and D, your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is seven months long. It starts three months before your 65th birthday month and ends three months after you turn 65. If you enroll in Medicare during your IEP, you will not be penalized for being late. There are no waiting periods for pre-existing conditions. When you register for Medicare Parts A, B, and D, it is important to consider whether Medicare will be your primary insurance or if you will continue to have employer coverage.

Applying for Medicare as Your Primary Coverage

If Medicare will be your primary insurance, you should enroll three months before your birth month. Your Medicare coverage will begin on the first of the month following your 65th birthday. If you enroll before your birthday, your benefits will begin on the first of your birthday month.

If you sign up for Medicare within three months of turning 65, your start date will be later. People who are unaware of this risk losing their health insurance for a few months. It’s crucial to understand that your application date has an impact on your start date.

Also, if you quit your job in the middle of your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period, your IEP takes priority over any other election period. We’ve seen this happen a few times, where people believe their Medicare coverage will begin as soon as their group coverage ends. If you’re on an IEP and your birth month has already passed, this chart shows that you’ll have to wait for coverage.

Medicare Coverage Start Date
If you sign up for Part A and/or Part B this month: Your coverage starts:
The month you turn 65 1 month after signing up
1 month after turning 65 2 months after signing up
2 months after turning 65 3 months after signing up
3 months after turning 65 3 months after signing up
During the General Enrollment Period from January 1-March 31 July 1

It’s simple to see why applying for Medicare before your 65th birthday month is generally a good idea. If you do not have other coverage and do not enroll during your 7-month IEP, you will be charged a 10% Part B late enrollment penalty for each full 12-month period that you were not enrolled in.

You should always enroll in both Parts A and B during your IEP if you have small employer coverage (less than 20 employees). If your company has fewer than 20 employees, Medicare will be the primary payer. If you work for a small business, filing for Medicare at the age of 65 is especially important! Learn more about Medicare & Employer Coverage here.

Ways to Apply for Medicare
  • Applying for Medicare Online
    You can apply for Medicare online in less than ten minutes through Social Security. To qualify for Medicare, you do not need to be on a fixed income. Simply go to the Social Security website and click on the Medicare application links. To apply for both social security retirement benefits and Medicare, visit www.ssa.gov/retire. To apply for just Medicare, visit www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare/. If you would like guidance on navigating these websites and their applications, contact our office or schedule an appointment using our online booking system.  While you wait for Social Security to process your application, our team can assist you in understanding Medicare supplement insurance options. By the time you get your card, we’ll make sure your coverage is ready to go! 
  • Applying for Medicare Over the Phone
    It’s just as simple to apply for Medicare over the phone as it is to apply online. Call Social Security at 1 (800) 772-1213 (or 1 (800) 325-0778, if you’re a TTY user) and tell them you want to apply for Medicare. You may receive immediate assistance in some cases. If there is a high volume of calls, Social Security will call you to set up a phone appointment to take your application over the phone. Your Social Security representative may send you some paperwork to fill out. In general, these forms are straightforward. One caveat with Medicare phone applications is that they take longer. The forms must be mailed to you, and you must complete and return them. This may result in delays. Only use the phone enrollment option if you have at least a month or two before your Medicare effective date.
  • Applying for Medicare In Person

    Some people prefer to apply for Medicare at the Scottsbluff Social Security office. This may be a good option if you’re approaching 65 and need to get your application processed quickly. Request a printout showing that you have applied for Medicare Parts A and B when you meet with a social security representative. This form will provide you with all of the information you’ll need to proceed with your Medicare Supplement and/or Part D drug plan applications.

Applying for Medicare Frequently Asked Questions
  • When should I submit my Medicare application?
    At the age of 65, you are eligible to apply for Medicare. If you plan to use Medicare as your primary insurance, you should apply for it three months before your 65th birthday.
  • When is Medicare open enrollment?
    Your Medicare open enrollment period is determined by your birthday. It’s a seven-month window that starts three months before your 65th birthday month and ends three months later. To avoid penalties, sign up for Medicare during this time period. Make sure you don’t mix up this enrollment period with the fall’s Annual Election Period (AEP). The AEP is unique in that it is only used to change your drug or Medicare Advantage plan.
  • When will my Medicare card arrive?
    To put it another way, how long does it take to receive your Medicare card after you apply? In most cases, your Medicare card will arrive within three weeks of your application. If you are already receiving Social Security benefits at the age of 65, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare. About two months before you turn 65, your card will arrive in your mailbox. When you get it, make sure you remember to enroll in Part D before your Initial Enrollment Period ends if you need drug coverage. Agents are not allowed to solicit you for Part D because it is a voluntary program, so you must enroll yourself. If you wish to utilize the assistance of one of our medicare certified agents to enroll in your Part D, you’ll have to reach out and contact us first, according to Medicare rules and regulations. Read more about Rules for Medicare Health Plans from Medicare.gov.
  • Will I have to apply for Medicare every year?

    Luckily, you won’t! One Medicare application is all you’ll need. Unless you fail to pay your premiums, your Medicare Parts A and B will automatically renew each year. Each year, your Part D drug plan will also automatically renew. However, the benefits of Part D drug plans change from year to year. Make sure you review your coverage every year during the Annual Election Period in the fall. The application for Medicare is only the first step. Medicare does not pay for all medical expenses. The deductibles and coinsurance you must pay expose you to significant financial risk. Working with knowledgeable agents, like us, to help assist you in determining the best Medicare supplemental insurance coverage for you.

  • After applying for Medicare Part B, how long does it take to get it?

    When you enroll in Part B, your effective date is often determined by when you enrolled. Part B will usually start the following month in most cases. This isn’t always the case, though. Refer to the chart above in the “Applying for Medicare as Your Primary Coverage” toggle or inquire with our Medicare representatives who can assist you with your application.

  • Gosh, I’m still overwhelmed by all of these dates and timelines. What should I do?
    You’ve come to the right place! Our Medicare-certified agents are happy to help and talk through your questions or concerns. Give us a call at (308) 436-9314 or schedule an appointment by using our online booking system.

Next Steps

Getting started as soon as possible will ensure that you have your new Medicare card in hand before your effective date. This is your opportunity to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B during the Initial Enrollment Period. This is also your Part D enrollment period, which is something our staff can help you with. Part D is a voluntary program, so you don’t have to enroll through Social Security.

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