Signing up For Medicare

Signing Up For Medicare

So what have we learned so far?

By now we should have a much better idea what Medicare is, what it does and doesn’t cover, and how much it costs.  Combined with that knowledge, we should be able to get an idea of where we’re at now to figure out what we need to do next.

And if ‘what you need to do next’ is to get signed up for one or more parts of Medicare, let’s figure out the different ways we can do it.

There are 5 different ways to get Medicare:

Option #1 to Get Medicare – Qualify Because of a Disability

Are you someone who’s reading this and will be turning 65 soon, but you are already on Medicare?  That’s because you have qualified to receive Social Security Disability benefits.

After you receive these benefits for 24 months, you qualify to receive Part A & B even though you’re younger than 65.  For everyone else, Medicare will start the 1st day of the month you turn 65 (unless your birthday falls on the 1st day of the month; Medicare would then start the 1st day of the month before).

Option #2 to Get Medicare – Get Enrolled Automatically

Are you getting close to your 65th birthday and your Medicare card just showed up in the mail without you having to do anything?  Do you know why that is?

Whenever you’re drawing any type of Social Security benefits, you are going to be automatically signed up for Original Medicare (Parts A & B).  You’ll usually receive your card in the mail about 3 to 3.5 months before your start date.

Opting Out of Part B

But, you may not want Part B right now.  We went through lots of scenarios in the last chapter where you would want to wait to get Part B until after you or your spouse either retires or loses the health plan you’re on.  Unfortunately, when you’re drawing Social Security you have to get Part A; can’t opt out of that one.

If this is what you’ve decided to do, then you have to take action.  Otherwise if you do nothing, Part B will start for you and the Part B premium will start being taken out of your Social Security check every month automatically when you turn 65.

If you don’t want Part B, you need turn your Medicare card over and check the box that says “I DO NOT WANT MEDICAL INSURANCE” on the back.  By “MEDICAL INSURANCE”, they mean Part B.  Then you and a witness should sign it and return it in the enclosed envelope.  You will receive a new card shortly after in the mail showing Part A only.

Back of Medicare card defer Part B

Option #3 to Get Medicare – Get Enrolled Online

This is by far the easiest and fastest way to get signed up.  If you’re somewhat comfortable using a computer, it really shouldn’t take much more than 15 minutes.

Check out the screenshots below to figure out how to get started:

Step 1: Go to and click the big green button labelled "Apply for Medicare" to get started.

Enrolling in Medicare online - step 1

Step 2:  Scroll to the bottom of the next page and click the big blue button labelled "Apply for Medicare Only"

Enrolling in Medicare online - step 2

Step 3:  Click the button "Start a New Application"

Enrolling in Medicare online - step 3

This method will allow you to sign up for Part A only, or Parts A & B together.  Here you can sign up for Medicare, without signing up for Social Security Income (or, retirement benefits, as it’s sometimes called).

Option #4 to Get Medicare – Get Enrolled Over the Phone

Are you not that comfortable using a computer?  Maybe when it comes to a decision this important you want to talk to a real live person.

Well, options #4 and #5 will let you talk to an agent to help you enroll.

To enroll over the phone, just give Social Security a call at 800-772-1213.  You can speak to a representative anytime between 7am – 7pm on Monday thru Friday in your time zone.

Keep in mind though that the agent might need to mail you forms, which you would then need to fill out and mail back.  If you fill something out wrong, that would require more mailing and delays.

If you don’t want to risk having to do this back and forth just…

Option #5 to Get Medicare – Get Enrolled In Your Local Office

Signing up this way allows you to take care of everything in one stop and get a confirmation on the spot that you’ve enrolled in Part A and/or Part B.

To find offices close to you, you can use this SSA office locator tool.  Just put in your zip code and you can see the hours the closest office to you will be open, as well as their address.  You can even get a map and directions to the office.

If you don’t want to risk going there and having a long wait, you can make an appointment by calling the same number in the previous step: 800-772-1213.  They may not have an appointment slot available for several weeks, so make sure you leave yourself enough time.

That brings us to the next topic of when you can actually enroll…

Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

We talked before about how Medicare starts for you on the 1st day of your birth month when you turn 65.  We also mentioned how it’ll start one month early if your birth is on the first of the month.

Your IEP, which is your signup period, is centered around this month.  This IEP lasts for seven months; so it starts three months before and goes til three months after.

Medicare Initial Enrollment Period

If you sign up for Medicare during the first three months of your IEP using options #3, #4, or #5 listed above, then your Medicare start date for both Parts A & B will be on the 1st day of your birth month.

If you sign up for Medicare in any of the last four months of your IEP, then things are a little different.  Your Part A effective date will still be on the 1st day of your birth month.  However, Part B will start according to the actual month you enroll.  Keep in mind, Medicare always starts the 1st day of the month.  Check out in the chart below on when your different start dates would be:

Enroll in Medicare:

Your Coverage Starts:

The month you turn 65

The following month

1 month after you turn 65

2 months after you enroll

2 months after you turn 65

3 months after you enroll

3 months after you turn 65

3 months after you enroll

Here's an example:

Example #1: Enroll the month following your birthday - Janice turns 65 May 3rd .  She forgets to sign up and ends up enrolling in Medicare in June.  Her Part B effective date will be August 1st.

Since you have to pay a premium for Part B, you can plan which month you want it to start if you don’t want it to start right away when you turn 65.

Example #2:  Planning ahead to save money -  Frank's birthday is in October and he plans to retire at the end of the year.  He can sign up for Part B in November to have it start January 1st.  He's decided his work insurance is adequate through the end of the year, so this planning strategy would allow him to save three months’ worth of premiums that might otherwise be wasted.


Alright, now that we’ve laid the groundwork for your Medicare plan, let’s dive deep into the options for supplemental insurance.  In the next chapter, we’ll look at Medigap plans.

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