how to sign up for medicareAs a person gets closer to the age of 65, they may know that applying for Medicare is necessary, but they may also wonder how to sign up for Medicare. This can be a difficult and confusing process if you don’t have all the information needed to fully understand the process. Here you will learn more about Medicare, as well as what you should do to sign up for these benefits.

Enrolling at the Right Time

One of the first things to understand when learning how to sign up for Medicare is that if you are just becoming eligible for these benefits, the open enrollment period, which occurs at the end of every year (between October 15th and December 7th) is not the right time for you.

Open enrollment is a time frame that allows people who are already enrolled in Medicare with the option to change their coverage for the upcoming year if needed. If you are a Medicare newbie, you will find there is an enrollment period designed specifically for you to sign up.

With the milestone of reaching the age of 65 quickly coming up, you may begin to panic when you think about how to handle Medicare and when you try to figure out how to sign up for Medicare. For example, do you need to enroll? What happens if you don’t enroll? What if you plan to keep on working? Who do you need to contact?

Getting it right is essential to avoid mistakes that may cost you quite a bit of hassle and money down the road. There is not a single right answer for everyone. The why, who, where, what and when of Medicare depend directly on your personal circumstances. Learning more about the process, including how to sign up for Medicare, will help put your mind at ease and ensure that you get the coverage you need and deserve.

Where to Sign Up for Medicare

Perhaps the biggest question that most people have is how to sign up for Medicare. After all, if you know you are nearing retirement age, or even if you plan to continue working, you are entitled to certain government benefits, with Medicare being one of these. Learning how to sign up is essential to take advantage of what is offered.

To enroll in Medicare, many people believe they simply need to call the federal agency; however, this is not the case – at all. For a number of historical reasons, the Social Security Administration is responsible for Medicare enrollment, as well as any issues that may arise, such as late penalties or eligibility status. The actual Medicare agency only deals with payment and coverage issues for those who are already enrolled.

If you are currently receiving disability benefits or Social Security retirement benefits when you are deemed eligible for Medicare, then the SSA is going to automatically sign you up for both Medicare Part A and B. You will receive your identification card through the mail. However, if you are not currently receiving benefits, then you will have to apply. You can call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or you can visit the Social Security website to apply.

  • Important Note for those not receiving Social Security benefits
    • If you are not receiving benefits from Social Security when you reach the age of 65, you will not receive a notification that it is time for you to enroll in Medicare. Also, if you allow your enrollment deadline to pass, then you will be hit with a number of late penalties and there is no appeal process simply because you “didn’t know.” Ignorance of the law in place is not considered a viable defense.

Why Online Enrollment May not be Possible

While it is now incredibly convenient to sign up for Medicare benefits online, there are some situations where you will have to provide documents that prove your eligibility. In these cases, online enrollment will not be possible. Some of the situations that require this include:

  • If you are using the work record of your spouse to qualify for Part A benefits that are premium-free. You will have to provide proof of your spouse’s birth date, proof of marriage, divorce date or spouse’s death.
  • If you are not an American citizen you will have to provide proof of legal residency and proof that you have lived in the U.S. for a period of at least five years.
  • You put off enrolling in Part B because after you turned 65 you had insurance from an employer.

If any of these circumstances apply to your situation, even if the online enrollment form allows you to use it, you will still have to send the required documents to the SSA via mail, or take them to your local office.

Signing Up for Medicare Abroad

Another issue some people face is how to sign up for Medicare if they life abroad. This can be tricky. There is the option to sign up for Part B and pay the monthly premiums even though you will not be able to use the benefits out of the U.S. and you won’t be reimbursed. Or, you can wait to sign up when you return to the U.S. If you do this; however, you are likely going to be hit with fees for delayed coverage and late penalties.

If you are currently abroad when you turn 65, you can sign up for Medicare by contacting the American consulate or embassy in the host country. You can also visit the international operations page on the Social Security Administration’s website.

Signing Up – Don’t Wait

As you age, your health and medical needs usually increase. Having quality insurance coverage, such as what is offered by Medicare is a must. However, prior to using these benefits, you need to learn how to sign up for Medicare. With the information here, you can easily learn how to sign up or how to apply for Medicare and have confidence that you will receive the benefits you are entitled to.