Learn How to Apply for Medicare

When you need to sign up for Medicare, there are a number of crucial steps to take and things to know about getting the right coverage for your needs. Choosing how you handle your Medicare enrollment is a very important decision. Different Medicare application methods can confuse new applicants, but there are also many great resources that applicants can use to get ahead.

Applicants can register for Medicare online or with the help of a Medicare professional. Continue reading to learn how to complete a Medicare health insurance application, as well as when to do so effectively.

When should I sign up for Medicare?

The most important thing to know about signing up for Medicare is knowing whether or not you need to. You will automatically receive Medicare enrollment if you:

  • Are receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits at least four months before you turn 65 years of age.
  • Are younger than 65 years of age and have received Social Security disability benefits for over two years.
  • Have ALS (in which case you will get Medicare when your disability benefits begin).

In these cases, you should automatically receive your Medicare enrollment card in the mail three months before your 65th birthday or your 25th month of disability.

Medicare Enrollment Periods

In order to learn how to apply for Medicare (if you need to), it is especially helpful to first learn about your Medicare enrollment period, and how it can change. All of the periods of time listed below are considered annual Medicare enrollment periods, which means that they apply only to Medicare Part A and Part B, and that they will automatically renew each year (except under rare circumstances).

The Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare is perhaps the most common phase, as it is the first possible opportunity to get Medicare health insurance for most individuals. If you would like to enroll in Medicare in the Initial Enrollment Period, you can do so during the 7-month stretch of time before, during and after your 65th birthday.

This Medicare enrollment period is different for everyone – it begins three months before your birth month, includes your birth month (containing your 65th birthday) and extends three months after your birth month.

If, when you sign up for Medicare, your Medicare eligibility says that you are not automatically enrolled (but still eligible for free Medicare Part A), you can sign up for Part A anytime after your Initial Enrollment Period starts. If your Medicare enrollment application says that you are not eligible for free Part A coverage, you can still have the opportunity to buy Part A or Part B during any valid Medicare enrollment phase.

If you would like to learn how to enroll in Medicare after your Initial Enrollment Period has ended, there are many other options available. You have access to the General Enrollment Period for Medicare if you missed signing up during the Initial Enrollment Period, or if you are not eligible for a Special Enrollment Period (discussed below). This General Medicare enrollment period lasts for three months each year.

One very important piece of information to note: the General Enrollment Period is also considered the Late Enrollment Period for Medicare, because it goes into effect after your first chance to enroll in coverage. Because of this, the premiums you will have to pay for Part A and Part B might go up during this phase.

Your Medicare application can also fall under one of the Special Enrollment Periods for Medicare. You can qualify for one of these special Medicare enrollment periods if you, your spouse or your dependent family member is working, and if you are covered by a group health plan because of that work. You can sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B during that time, or during a period after either the employment or group coverage ends. The benefit from qualifying for a Special Enrollment Period is that when you enroll in Medicare during that time, there are usually no associated late fees or additions to your premiums.

How to Apply for Medicare Online

To prepare for your online Medicare application, there are three very important pieces of information that you will need. These include:

  1. Your date of birth and place of birth.
    1. If you were born outside of the United States, in order to register for Medicare you will also need to provide the original name of your birth country and your Permanent Resident Card number (if you are not a U.S citizen)
  2. Your Medicaid Number, as well as the start and end dates listed in your Medicaid information, if you have received Medicaid.
  3. Your current health insurance information, including;
    1. Employment start and end dates for the current employer (of you or your spouse) who covers your Group Health Plan insurance
    1. Start and end dates for the above mentioned Group Health Plan insurance

With this information, filling out your online Medicare health insurance application should go very smoothly, and the process usually takes an average of about 15 minutes. Once you have been approved for enrollment in Medicare Part A and/or Part B, you do not have to renew your coverage each year. However, you can review your Medicare coverage, change plans or decide to apply for Part C/Part D each year if you wish to do so.