Social Security Administration – the Starting Place
Your starting place for signing up for Medicare will be the Social Security Administration. Signing up for Medicare means enrolling in Part A and/or Part B, which is also referred to as “Original Medicare”. You can do this in person at your local Social Security Office, online at www.ssa.gov or over the phone. If you are already receiving benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), you will be automatically enrolled in both Part A and Part B starting the first of the month you turn 65. If your birthday is on the first of the month, your Part A and B can start the first of the prior month.
Signing up during your Initial Enrollment Period? If you are turning 65 and do not have a group health plan based on your own or a spouse’s employment, you should sign up for Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period, which begins three months before your 65th birthday month and ends three months after your 65-birthday month, for a total of a seven-month period. Your coverage will begin 1-3 months after you sign up, depending on when you sign up. To avoid any gap in coverage, we recommended starting the process three months before turning 65.
You can sign up for Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) in three ways:
- Online at www.SocialSecurity.gov.
- By calling Social Security at
1-800-772-1213 (TTY users 1-800-325-0778),
Monday through Friday, from 7AM to 7PM
- or In person at your local Social Security Office
You’ll be automatically signed up for Medicare Part A and Part B if any one of the following apply:
- You are already getting benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board
- You are younger than 65 and have a disability
- You have Lou Gehrig’s disease, also called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS
Signing up during a Special Enrollment Period? If you are signing up for Part A and/or Part B during a Special Enrollment Period, you’ll need to provide evidence of your other group health plan coverage along with your application. You will need to specify which date you want your Part B coverage to begin.
How long does the process take? Signing up for Medicare with the Social Security Administration may take anywhere from 2-3 weeks to 1-2 months. It is recommended to begin the process at least 3 months before you turn 65, or 3 months before your retirement date if covered under a group health plan after 65, to avoid any gaps in coverage. Once you apply, you can check the status of your application at any time.
How much will it cost? Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) is premium free if you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes for at least ten years (40 quarters). Most people qualify for premium free Part A. If you don’t qualify for premium-free Part A, you can buy it. If you paid Medicare taxes for less than 30 quarters, the standard Part A premium is $471. If you paid Medicare taxes for 30-39 quarters, the standard Part A premium is $259 in 2021. Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) has a standard monthly premium amount of $148.50 in 2021 but is higher depending on your income due to an “Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount” known as “IRMAA”. IRMAA is an extra charge added to your monthly Part B premium. Medicare determines if you own an IRMAA based on the income you reported on your IRS tax return from 2 years ago. IRMAA also applies to “Part D” if you have a stand-alone prescription drug plan. To see more about Medicare costs and the income thresholds see Budgeting for Medicare.
Once approved, you’ll receive your Medicare card in the mail. Your card will have your name, Medicare number, your Part A and if applicable, Part B start dates. If you sign up for only Part A, and later sign up for Part B, you’ll receive a new Medicare card once your Part B application is complete.