You can apply for Medicare beginning three months before your 65th birthday. You can then get in touch with Social Security by signing up online for benefits, visit your local area Social Security office, or by calling them, depending on which method you prefer.
However, it is a good idea to start to learn about Medicare three to four months at least before you apply. This way, when it is time for you to enroll, you won’t be confused and will be prepared to choose the Medicare plan or series of plans that suit your needs the best.
- Study all of the Medicare plans to gain a good understanding of them. You will need to research the following plans:
Plan A (medical facilities are covered)
Plan B (medical providers are covered)
Plan C (these are Medicare Advantage plans that mimic private insurance plans and work as an alternative option to the Plan A/B package)
Plan D (covers prescription drug plans. Supplement coverage gaps used to be covered)
Medicare Supplement Plans 2021 to supplement the standard coverage and tailor a plan to your needs
Become familiar with the terminology that is used, so you clearly understand why some of the options are better than others and know what you are signing up for.
The US government’s Medicare website is a good place to begin getting information. However, you should never be limited to only one source. Look for user-friendly websites that take the approach of providing you with all the information you need to know about Medicare. (Medicare on Video is a good site, for example).
- If you think it would be useful, find someone who can help you conduct the research. A trusted friend or family member could prove to be invaluable, particularly if she or he is someone who has dealt with health insurance and Medicare issues already. This kind of person can be a great resource if you feel intimidated or confused by all of Medicare’s convoluted regulations and jargon.
- Before signing up for Medicare, call Social Security and ask them any questions you have about Medicare. If there is anything you don’t understand completely or you are not sure how you will be affected by the rules, call Social Security to find out. Stay on the phone until all of your doubts are gone and your questions have all been answered.
- To avoid long delays, choose a good time to call. Social Security’s busiest times (and the most difficult times to reach anyone) are the first day of the month, early morning, and on Mondays and Fridays.
The best times to call to inform Social Security about your Medicare plans or to get information is Tuesday through Thursday, between 10 am and 3 pm ET. You shouldn’t have to wait on hold for too long during those times.
- Above all else, do not get stressed out. Applying for Medicare benefits and coverage is not as hard or scary as you might think it is. Underneath all of the confusing terminology and bureaucracy is a rational and logical system that you can ultimately come to understand.