Learn about Medicare
Medicare is our country’s health insurance program for people age 65 or older. Certain people younger than age 65 can qualify for Medicare, too, including those with disabilities and those who have permanent kidney failure.
Already Enrolled in Medicare
If you already have Medicare, you can get information and services online. Find out how to manage your benefits.
If you already have Medicare Part A and wish to sign up for Medicare Part B, please complete form CMS 40-B, Application for Enrollment in Medicare - Part B (Medical Insurance), and take or mail it to your local Social Security office.
Anyone who has Medicare can get Medicare prescription drug coverage. Some people with limited resources and income also may be able to get Extra Help to pay for the costs.
Applying for Medicare
When you apply for Medicare, you can sign up for Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). Because you must pay a premium for Part B coverage, you can turn it down. However, if you decide to enroll in Part B later on, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage. Your monthly premium will go up 10 percent for each 12-month period you were eligible for Part B, but didn’t sign up for it, unless you qualify for a special enrollment period.
If you’re eligible at age 65, your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn age 65, and ends three months after that birthday. However, if you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period, you have another chance each year to sign up during a “general enrollment period” from January 1 through March 31. Your coverage begins on July 1 of the year you enroll. Read our Medicare publication for more information.
How To Apply Online For Just Medicare
You can apply online for Medicare even if you are not ready to retire. Use our online application to sign up for Medicare. It takes less than 10 minutes. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you’re done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if we need more information. Otherwise, you’ll receive your Medicare card in the mail.
Medicare is managed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Social Security works with CMS by enrolling people in Medicare.
For more information about applying for Medicare only and delaying retirement benefits, visit Applying for Medicare Only – Before You Decide.
To find out what documents and information you need to apply, go to the Checklist For The Online Medicare, Retirement, And Spouses Application.
Use the online application to apply for just Medicare.
Finish an application you
Check the status of an application you submitted.
Questions about our online application
Who can apply for Medicare online?
You can use our online Medicare application if you:
- Are at least 64 years and 9 months old;
- Want to sign up for Medicare but do not currently have ANY Medicare coverage;
- Do not want to start receiving Social Security benefits at this time; and
- Are not currently receiving Social Security retirement, disability or survivors benefits.
When should I apply?
You should sign up for Medicare three months before reaching age 65, even if you are not ready to start receiving retirement benefits. You can opt out of receiving cash retirement benefits now once you are in the online application. Then you can apply online for retirement benefits later.
With our online application, you can sign up for Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). Because you must pay a premium for Part B coverage, you can turn it down.
If choose not to enroll in Medicare Part B and then decide to do so later, your coverage may be delayed and you may have to pay a higher monthly premium for as long as you have Part B. Your monthly premium will go up 10 percent for each 12-month period you were eligible for Part B, but didn’t sign up for it, unless you qualify for a "Special Enrollment Period."
Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
If you have medical insurance coverage under a group health plan based on your or your spouse's current employment, you may not need to apply for Medicare Part B at age 65. You may qualify for a "Special Enrollment Period" (SEP) that will let you sign up for Part B during:
- Any month you remain covered under the group health plan and your, or your spouse's, employment continues; or
- The 8-month period that begins with the month after your group health plan coverage or the employment it is based on ends, whichever comes first.
Why apply for Medicare online?
Using the online Medicare application has a number of benefits. You can:
- Avoid trips to your Social Security Office, saving you time and money.
- Answer questions at your convenience by starting and stopping the application without fear of losing any information you entered.
- Make corrections to the application prior to submission.
- Submit your application electronically. There is no need to mail in your application. When you are finished, just select “Submit Now” to send your application to Social Security.
- Receive a receipt online for your application that you can print and keep for your records.
- Check the status of your application online. You will receive a confirmation number once you submit your application.
What happens after I apply?
Once we receive your application, we will
- Review your application and contact you if we need more information or if we need to see your documents;
- Process your application once we have all of the necessary information and documents; and
- Mail you a decision letter.
Other Medicare registration/enrollment options
You can also apply:
- By phone - Call us at 1-800-772-1213 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call us at TTY 1-800-325-0778.
- In person - Visit your local Social Security office. (Call first to make an appointment.)
If you do not live in the U.S. or one of its territories you can also contact the nearest U.S. Social Security office, U.S. Embassy or consulate.