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How to Enroll in Medicare

Medicare enrollment is sometimes automatic.

You will be enrolled automatically in Original Medicare Parts A and B if:

  • You are turning 65 and are getting Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits.
  • You are under 65 and have received disability benefits for 24 months.
  • You have Lou Gehrig’s disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis/ALS) and start getting disability benefits.

How Automatic Enrollment in Medicare Works

You will get your Medicare card in the mail three months before your 65th birthday, or before your 25th month of getting disability benefits. You’ll get it immediately if you have ALS.

Keeping the card means you accept Original Medicare Part A and Part B coverage. You also agree to pay Part B premiums. (If you live in Puerto Rico, you are not automatically enrolled in Part B. You need to sign up for it if you want it.)

You must notify Medicare if you decide to refuse Part B. You may want to do this if you have other health coverage, through a retirement plan for example. To refuse Part B, just follow the instructions that come with the card, and send the card back.

How to Enroll in Medicare Yourself

You need to take action to sign up for Medicare if:

  • You are turning 65 and are not currently getting Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits.
  • You qualify for Medicare because you have End-Stage Renal Disease Permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant. .
  • You live in Puerto Rico and want Part B coverage.

Go to SocialSecurity.gov to sign up for Medicare online. You can enroll in Medicare Part A, Part B or both. You can also enroll in Medicare by phone or in person at any Social Security office. Call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time, to make an appointment.

If you live outside the United States and its territories, contact the nearest U.S. Social Security office, U.S. Embassy or consulate, or the Veterans Affairs Regional Office (VARO) in the Philippines.

How to Enroll in a Private Medicare Plan

You may choose to enroll in a private Medicare plan after you complete your initial enrollment in both Part A and Part B. You can choose a:

  • Medicare Advantage plan (Part C)
  • Standalone Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D)
  • Medicare supplement insurance plan

You can find out about plans offered where you live at Medicare.gov or directly from the insurance companies. You can apply online, by phone or through a local insurance agent. Many agents hold events at community locations where you can go and get your questions answered first-hand and in person. Watch for announcements in the mail, at your pharmacy or anywhere else that community events might be held in your neighborhood.

Keep in mind that if you don’t get drug coverage or Medicare supplement insurance when you’re first eligible, you may have fewer choices and pay more to get it later.