How to Apply for Medicare in 2 Easy Steps

Signing up for Medicare is a two-part process where you first enroll in the government program through the Social Security Administration, which confirms your eligibility. Next, you'll choose your coverage and apply for Medicare plans from private insurance companies.

Applying for Medicare online can take less than 30 minutes. Depending on when you apply, it can take one to two months before your coverage begins.

Review Medicare plan options with licensed insurance agents near you

Medicare application overview

Applying for Medicare starts by confirming you are eligible for the government program. After you get your Medicare card, about two weeks after you apply, you can use your Medicare number to join a plan, such as Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement or Medicare Part D.

What's the process for applying to Medicare?

first step icon

Step 1: Complete the Social Security Administration's application.

This first step is sometimes called applying for Original Medicare or, more specifically, applying for Medicare Part A (hospitalization insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance).

The process is quick, and the application only takes about 10 to 30 minutes, according to the Social Security Administration.

You can complete your Medicare application online, by phone or in person. You cannot complete your initial Medicare application by mail. The agency recommends applying online, when possible. This will allow you to set up your accounts so you can review your application status and eventually manage your Medicare benefits.

How to apply for Original Medicare

Do you automatically get Medicare when you turn 65?

  • Medicare enrollment is only automatic if you've started getting Social Security benefits at least four months before turning 65. In this case, you'll automatically be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B when you turn 65. That's because the application to start receiving Social Security benefits is also used as your Medicare application. However, full retirement benefits are typically not available until age 66 or 67. That's why more than half of people are not automatically enrolled in Medicare.
  • Most people will need to fill out a Medicare application at age 65 during the initial enrollment period. That's because you haven't started receiving Social Security yet. The Medicare application determines if you're eligible for benefits. If you don't apply by three months after the month of your 65th birthday, you will pay a late enrollment penalty.
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Step 2: Choose your coverage by visiting or working with an independent insurance broker.

Because Medicare's government plans (Parts A and B) only provide basic benefits, most enrollees also get coverage through a private insurance company. Plan options include:

  • Getting bundled coverage with a Medicare Part C plan (also called Medicare Advantage), which could cost as little as $0 per month.
  • Alternatively, you could add on a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan and/or a Medicare Part D plan (prescription drugs) to provide coverage on top of what you get from Parts A and B.

You may not need these extra plans if you get supplemental coverage through a former employer or through Medicaid.

About 10% of enrollees don't have additional coverage beyond Medicare Parts A and B. However, this is not recommended because you could pay very high medical costs and won't have coverage for prescriptions.

Don't let cost concerns stop you from choosing a Medicare plan. Some plans are free, and there are programs to help make Medicare more affordable for those who qualify.

It only takes a few minutes to get Medicare quotes. But it's worth it to spend time comparing plans and choosing the right coverage for your needs.

Costs can vary widely between counties and among insurance companies. That's why requesting personalized quotes is a smart step to get the best deal on the level of coverage you want.

Medicare plan options

Review Medicare plan options with licensed insurance agents near you

4 ways you can sign up for a private Medicare plan

  • On
  • By calling the hotline at 1-800-633-4227 (TTY 1-877-486-2048)
  • Directly with the insurance company
  • Through an independent agent or broker

It usually doesn't cost anything extra to work with an independent agent or broker, and you'll be able to get personalized recommendations and compare plans from different companies.

For Medicare Advantage and Part D plans, you'll be able to enroll in a plan directly through the Medicare Plan Finder on

For Medicare Supplement plans, you'll be able to browse your options on, but the portal will only provide rough cost estimates. For actual quotes, you'll need to go directly to an agent, broker or insurance company. That's because where you live can affect the rules about Supplement plans.

If you need help choosing a Medicare policy, the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) agency in your state provides free assistance.

What documents and information do you need to apply for Medicare?

In most cases, you only need basic information to complete your Medicare application. You'll submit your name, address and a few other details.

What you need to apply for Medicare:

  • The basics
    • Full name and address
    • Birthday
    • Current health insurance start and end dates
    • Place of birth
    • Employment start and end dates if the employer is providing your health insurance
  • If applying as a couple, spouse or former spouse
    • Current spouse name
    • Prior spouse name if the marriage lasted more than 10 years or ended in death
    • Marriage(s) beginning and end dates
    • Marriage(s) location (city, state, country)
    • Spouse(s) date of birth and Social Security number (optional)
  • Contact information
    • A different email address for each person applying for Medicare
    • Phone number for verification via text message or phone call
  • Other information that's sometimes needed
    • If not a U.S. citizen, your permanent resident card number
    • If also enrolled in Medicaid, your Medicaid number

You won't need to submit a detailed work history or financial documents. Instead, verification usually happens behind the scenes. For example, the Social Security Administration uses income information directly from the IRS to determine if you need to pay more for Medicare because you earn more than the current Medicare income limit of $103,000 a year.

When can you apply for Medicare?

Sign up for Medicare during your initial enrollment period to get the best deal on plans and avoid penalties.

When is Medicare initial enrollment?

Medicare part
Parts A, B, C, D3 months before the month of your 65th birthday3 months after the month of your 65th birthday
MedigapThe first day of the month you're 65+ and enrolled in Part B6 months after your enrollment window begins
  • General enrollment period (with penalties): Every year from Jan. 1 to March 31
  • Special enrollment period (with a qualifying event): The eight months after you lose group health insurance through your job or your spouse's job. While you're still working, you can also use a special enrollment period to sign up for Part B.

Remember that enrolling in Medicare is not a one-time event. Each year, there are Medicare open enrollment periods where you can change your Medicare plans to make sure you’re always getting the best deal on coverage based on the available plan choices and your changing medical needs as you age.

How to sign up for Medicare online: Step-by-step

Applying for Medicare is straightforward. Usually, no documentation is required, and there are no paper forms to sign. Plus, the online forms will also automatically adjust the questions based on your answers to request the information that's needed for your situation.

Before you get started, you can review the Medicare eligibility guidelines, and check your initial enrollment period to find out when you should apply.

When applying for Medicare, you'll need to set up a few different accounts.

  • Your Social Security account is where you'll apply for Medicare benefits.
  • or is sometimes used to verify your identity.
  • Your account will be how you choose your plans and check medical claims.

How to sign up for Medicare Parts A and B (Original Medicare)

  1. Visit the Social Security Administration portal.
  2. Agree to the terms of service, and start a new application.
  3. Specify who the application is for.
  4. Log in to your Social Security account. Or create a Social Security account or verify your identity with or
    • After creating a account, you'll probably need to confirm your phone number with an access code that's sent via text message or a phone call. This system, called two-factor authentication, adds extra security to your account.
  5. Fill out basic information such as name, Social Security number, birth date and gender.
  6. Decide if the application is only for Medicare or if you want to apply for both Medicare and Social Security retirement benefits.
  7. Answer questions about your current health benefits, including any group insurance plan information and employment information.
  8. Review your application and resolve errors.
    • Social Security does verify account information with the credit reporting agencies. So you can get an error if you entered the wrong birthday or misspelled your name.
    • There could also be a data error in the system where your information does not match the records. In these cases, contact the Social Security Administration by phone to resolve the issue. The agent may need to mail you an activation code to reset your account so that you can complete the application.
  9. Finally, accept the agreement and submit your application.

You can check the status of your application or return to a saved application by logging in to your Social Security account.

When your application is approved, you'll receive your red, white and blue Medicare card by mail. You'll also receive a "Welcome to Medicare" packet, which includes the comprehensive "Medicare & You" handbook.

How to apply for Medicare if working past 65

If you have a group health insurance plan through an employer, you can apply for Medicare at age 65 but defer enrolling in any coverage that has a monthly cost. The Medicare application process is a little different when you're still working.

  1. Complete your Medicare application at age 65 to avoid penalties.
  2. Enroll in Medicare Part A, which is nearly always free.
  3. Defer Part B enrollment to avoid monthly costs while you have other coverage. If your employer has fewer than 20 employees, confirm with your workplace that you can defer Part B.
  4. Don't apply for a Medicare Advantage (Part C) or Medigap plan at this time.
  5. Check that the prescription drug plan through your job is considered "creditable drug coverage" so that you can postpone your Medicare Part D enrollment without penalties.
  6. When you eventually retire and lose health insurance through your job, apply for Medicare Part B during the special enrollment period, and complete the CMS 40B form (Application for Enrollment in Medicare Part B).

You may need to fully enroll in Medicare at age 65 if you are self-employed, have COBRA or work for an employer with fewer than 20 employees. Check your policy or with your employer's HR department for the specifics of how your coverage works.

How to apply for Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement and Part D

  1. Using the Medicare number on your Medicare card, create an account on
  2. Set up the account by entering your name and other basic information. To avoid any mix-ups, make sure everything you enter on matches what you entered in your application with the Social Security Administration.
  3. Create a username and password.
  4. Compare the plans offered in your area, and decide between a Medicare Advantage bundle or Original Medicare with add-on plans for Medigap and Medicare Part D.
  5. Apply for the Medicare plan you choose.
  6. After enrolling, you'll get the detailed plan information and benefits information from the insurance company.

Apply for financial assistance to make Medicare more affordable

Applications for financial assistance programs are not automatically included when you apply for Medicare coverage.

If you have a low income and are concerned about costs, you can apply to see if you're eligible for financial assistance. About 30% to 45% of people eligible for these programs never apply for the benefits.

Typical eligibility (individual)
Extra Help for drug costsLess than $1,883 monthly income and up to $17,220 in cash, stocks or bondsSocial Security
Medicare Savings ProgramsLess than $1,715 monthly income and up to $9,430 in assetsYour state Medicaid office
MedicaidLess than $1,732 monthly income in most statesYour state Medicaid office

For programs administered by states, income limits and asset requirements vary. After applying for Medicare, check with your state for the exact eligibility requirements.

Frequently asked questions

How do I enroll in Medicare for the first time?

Start by applying for Medicare Parts A and B through the Social Security Administration website. Next, you can choose your coverage at and see what private insurance companies are selling plans in your area for Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement and Medicare Part D.

How long does it take to apply for Medicare?

It only takes 10 to 30 minutes to apply for Medicare through the Social Security Administration, and you'll only need to enter basic information like your name, address and birth date. Afterward, it can take longer to compare the coverage options and choose the best plan. But the actual enrollment in Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement and Medicare Part D is very quick.

How long does it take for your Medicare application to be approved?

Your Medicare application can take as little as a few weeks to be approved, and you can check your online account to find out the status of your application. However, the timing of when your coverage begins depends on when you apply. Most people will have their Part A and B coverage start on the first day of the month they turn 65. But if you apply during your birthday month or the three months after, your Medicare Part B benefits could begin one to three months after your application.

Can you sign up for Medicare over the phone?

Yes. To start your Medicare application and apply for Parts A and B, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). After this, you can choose your Medicare plan by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or 1-800-633-4227 (TTY 1-877-486-2048).

How long does it take to get a Medicare card?

Usually, you'll receive your Medicare card two weeks after signing up for Medicare. If you've been receiving Social Security for four months before turning 65, you'll automatically receive your Medicare card without having to sign up for Medicare.

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Invitations for application for insurance may be made through QW Insurance Solutions, LLC ("QWIS"), a separate subsidiary of QuoteWizard, LLC ("QuoteWizard"), a LendingTree subsidiary, or through its designated agents, only where licensed and appointed. Licensing information for QWIS can be found here. QWIS is a non-government licensed health insurance agency. Not affiliated with or endorsed by any government agency.

Callers will be directed to a licensed and certified representative of Medicare Supplement insurance and/or Medicare Advantage HMO, HMO SNP, PPO, PPO SNP and PFFS organizations. Calls will be routed to a licensed insurance agent who can provide you with further information about the insurance plans offered by one or more nationally recognized insurance companies. Each of the organizations they represent has a Medicare contract. Enrollment in any plan depends on contract renewal.

Availability of benefits and plans varies by carrier and location and may be limited to certain times of the year unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. We do not offer every plan available in your area. Currently we represent 73 organizations which offer 5,110 products in your area. Please contact or 1-800-MEDICARE, or your local State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) to get information on all of your options.

These numbers provided are not specific to your area, but rather represent the number of organizations and the number of products available on a national basis. We will connect you with licensed insurance agents who can provide information about the number of organizations they represent and the number of products they offer in your service area. Not all plans offer all of these benefits. Benefits may vary by carrier and location.

Deductibles, copays, coinsurance, limitations, and exclusions may apply.

Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed the information contained on this website. Medicare evaluates plans based on a 5-star rating system every year.


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