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How to apply for Medicare

A child and an senior couple celebrating a 65th birthday

If you are turning 65 soon, it is time to think about applying for Medicare. You have a seven-month window to enroll. Here are three ways to apply: 

  • Visit
  • Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday from 7am to 7pm.
  • Go to your local Social Security office.

Keep in mind you should have documents like your Social Security card and your birth certificate handy when you apply.

When to apply for Medicare

You have a seven-month window called the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) to apply for Medicare:

  • Three months before the month you turn 65
  • The month you turn 65
  • Three months after the month you turn 65

What documents do I need to apply for Medicare?

When you apply for Medicare, you might need to provide some documents that show you’re eligible. Medicare and Social Security might already have some of this information.

To apply for Medicare, you’ll need:

  • Your Social Security card
  • Your original birth certificate
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or legal citizenship status documentation if you were not born in the U.S.
  • A copy of your W-2 form

Know the A, B, C and Ds of Medicare coverage

Medicare Part A covers hospital stays and at-home care. At 65, you may feel healthy enough to not worry about such coverage. But Part A is important in case you have an unexpected injury or sudden illness that requires inpatient care.

Medicare Part B includes doctor visits, medical tests, X-rays, medical supplies, and long-term preventive care. Part B is your coverage for health care visits that help you stay healthy.

A note about Medicare Part A and Part B: If you’ve heard the term “Original Medicare,” that means Parts A and B. The federal government agency called The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) offers Original Medicare Parts A and B.

Many people find they need more coverage than what CMS offers with Parts A and B. For example, you might want dental, vision, and hearing insurance. This is where Medicare Parts C and D come in.

You must sign up for Part C or Part D through a private insurance company. CMS does not offer Medicare Part C or Medicare Part D plans.

Medicare Part C (also called a Medicare Advantage plan) is an all-in-one plan that provides Part A and B coverage, and it often includes prescription drug coverage (Part D) as well. Most Medicare Advantage plans include coverage for prescription drugs through Part D, dental, vision, and hearing aids. They can also have added benefits such as fitness programs, transportation, and more.

Medicare Part D is easy to understand if you remember the ‘D’ stands for prescription drugs, which this Part covers. Part D is especially important if you take regular medications for a condition such as high blood pressure.

How to apply for Original Medicare Parts A and B

If you’re getting Social Security benefits at least four months before your 65th birthday, you’re automatically enrolled in Parts A and B. Social Security will send you Medicare information and a Medicare card prior to your 65th birthday.

If you are still working and not receiving Social Security benefits, you can sign up for Medicare at any Social Security office or apply for Medicare online. The Social Security Administration offers a secure online portal where you can apply easily in about 10 minutes.

If you’re still getting health care coverage from your employer or your spouse’s employer, you may only need Medicare Part A, which can offset some of the costs your employer’s health plan doesn’t cover.

You can visit our enrollment page for more information.

How to apply for a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C or Part D)

You can opt for a Medicare Advantage plan to make sure you’re also covered for things Part A and Part B do not cover, such as prescription drugs, dental, vision, and hearing aids.

Medicare Advantage plans also offer other benefits, such as fitness program memberships, money for over-the-counter health-related items, personal home helpers, transportation to doctor visits and more.

Browse Anthem’s Medicare Advantage plans to find one that fits your needs for more complete health care coverage.

Anthem also offers Part D plans. But remember, Part D is included in most Medicare Advantage plans. If you only need prescription drug coverage, a standalone Part D plan is your best bet.

If you start out with Original Medicare and decide you want a Medicare Advantage plan, you can make that change during your IEP (the seven-month window) or during the Annual Enrollment Period between October 15 and December 7. There are also other life circumstances that give you another window, the Special Enrollment Period, to sign up for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans.

Explore Medicare plans in your area to find the right plan for you.

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