How To Sign Up For Medicare (Tips)

Shelia Benson

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period runs from October 15th to December 7th every year. The Medicare Annual Enrollment period allows existing Medicare enrollees to make changes to their coverage.

Any changes made during the 2022 Medicare enrollment period will affect your 2023 plan, beginning January 1, 2023.

During the Medicare Annual Enrollment period you can change Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, or Medicare Part D plans, you may also switch between plan types and add prescription drug benefits. 

This period of time is important in making sure that you have the health benefits you need for the upcoming year.


4 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Changing Your Medicare Plan  

Before making changes to your current Medicare plan or adding prescription drug benefits, you will want to ask yourself the following questions:

1. What new Medicare plans are available for 2023? 

Each year, the availability and cost of Medicare plans change.

Reviewing your Medicare plan options annually ensures you get the best deal and the best coverage. Keeping your current coverage is an option as well and your Annual Notice of Changes will tell you how your current plan is changing for the new year.

2. Does my Medicare coverage match my medical needs? 3. Do I have any gaps in my prescription drug coverage?

Depending on if your medical situation has changed, updating your policy can help you save money in the long run.

An important step in comparing plans would be to look at the total cost of healthcare and insurance. For instance, if you expect to need significant medical or dental care in the upcoming year, a more expensive Medicare Advantage plan with better coverage can reduce your total health care spending.

3. Do I have any gaps in my prescription drug coverage? 

During the Annual Open Enrollment period, you have the option of switching to a policy that has better coverage for the medications you need. You may be able to change Medicare plan companies and have access to different formulary which will improve your benefits.

4. Am I happy with Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage?

If you’re unhappy with Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage you can switch to a different plan during open enrollment.

Medicare Advantage plans include more benefits for prescription drug coverage, dental vision, hearing aids, and more. 

What Are Some Tips When Signing Up For Medicare?

People age 65 or older are automatically enrolled in Medicare Hospital Insurance (Part A) and Medical Insurance (Part B). If you don’t receive Social Security benefits and are not ready to apply for them yet, you should sign up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday (IEP), you’ll have a seven-month window of time to sign up for benefits.

You pay a premium for Part B coverage which you can turn down, however, if you decide to sign up for Part B later, your coverage can be delayed.

To apply for Medicare benefits you can fill out an online application at Here are a few tips to consider when signing up:

  • Make sure you meet Medicare requirements before processing an application. Medicare requires you to be 65 or older to enroll in coverage.

  • To enroll you are required to login into your existing Social Security account or attempt to create one. To create an account, you will be asked a series of identity questions for verification.

  • Have certain items on hand to be prepared for additional security questions such as but not limited to a mobile phone (for the purpose of receiving texts and emails), credit card, W-2, and tax forms.

  • You will be required to fill out your Date and Place of Birth. Note: If you were born outside the United States or its territories you will need to fill in your birth country at the time of your birth, and your Permanent Resident Card number (if you are not a U.S citizen)

  • You will fill in your Medicaid Number (State Health Coverage) if applicable.

  • You may also fill out employment information. If you have current health insurance coverage through a Group Health Plan you will indicate the Start and End date of coverage for your plan (or spouse’s employer) through your current employer. 

Once you’ve gathered all of the necessary items to enroll, you will then click on “Apply for Benefits” and follow the prompts on the screen. 

  • You can also Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. TTY users can call 1-800-325-0778.

  • Contact your local Social Security office.

  • If you or your spouse worked for a railroad, call the Railroad Retirement Board at 1-877-772-5772.

What Happens After Applying For Medicare?

After applying for Medicare benefits you will be mailed a “Welcome Package” within 2 weeks of signing up.

If you receive Medicare automatically based on disability, you’ll get this package about 2 weeks after Social Security approves your benefits. Your “Welcome Package” will include your Medicare card (Part A and Part B) showing when your coverage starts.

  • Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) helps cover hospital care, skilled nursing care, and more. Most people don’t need to pay a premium for Part A Medicare coverage.

  • Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) helps cover doctor’s services, outpatient care, and more. Part B Medicare is optional, and you pay a monthly premium for it.

If you sign up for Medicare Part B at a later time and aren’t eligible for the Special Enrollment Period, you’ll pay 10% more for each full 12-month period you could’ve had Medicare Part B coverage but didn’t take it. You will have to pay this late enrollment penalty each time you pay your premiums, for as long as you have Medicare Part B coverage. Note: The penalty increases the longer you go without Medicare Part B coverage. 

Now if you’re already signed up for Medicare Part B you don’t need to do anything. You will automatically be deducted a premium for Medicare Part B from your monthly Social Security or Civil Service benefit payments.

If your benefits aren’t enough to cover your premium, and you don’t get benefits, you’ll be billed for your Medicare Part B premium every 3 months. If you don’t want Medicare Part B coverage now you can sign up at a later time, however, you may have to wait for your coverage to start and pay a monthly penalty.

Another thing to think about when signing up for Medicare Part B is purchasing Medicare Supplement Insurance from private insurance companies to help you pay your out-of-pocket costs.

In addition, you’ll have the option of adding a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, and Medicare Advantage (also known as Medicare Part C) which are Medicare-approved plans from private companies that bundle your Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B coverage, and usually drug coverage (Medicare Part D). Some of the plans offer extra benefits like vision, hearing, and dental services. 

If you don’t have prescription drug coverage on your Medicare plan, or the coverage you have isn’t at least as good as Medicare drug coverage (creditable coverage), you should consider signing up for a Medicare Part D plan. Your plan will tell you each year if your drug coverage is creditable coverage.

If you want Medicare drug coverage, you can join a Medicare drug coverage plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan that includes drug coverage.

You have up to 3 months after your Medicare coverage starts to join a Medicare Part D plan. If you don’t sign up for Medicare drug coverage when you’re first eligible for Medicare, and you don’t have a creditable prescription drug plan, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty.

If you join at a later time, you’ll pay this penalty for as long as you have Medicare drug coverage. The longer you wait to join the penalty goes up.

Dates & Time Frames To Keep In Mind

  • From October 15th to December 7th:

    You can join, switch, or drop a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Medicare drug plan during this period each year. Your new coverage will begin on January 1 of the following year.

  • From January 1st to March 31:

    If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan then you can change to a different Medicare Advantage Plan or switch to a Medicare-only plan (Original Medicare )and enroll in a stand-alone Medicare drug plan once during this time.

  • The Special Enrollment Period (SEP):

    This perios applies in certain situations, you may be able to join, switch or drop Medicare Advantage or Medicare drug plans when certain events happen in your life, such as moving or losing coverage. Your enrollment generally lasts for a calendar year. 

What To Remember About Medicare  

Original Medicare pays much, but not all of the cost for covered health care or supplies. If you decide to enroll in an Original Medicare plan, you may be able to buy a Medicare Supplement plan (Medigap) from a Private Insurance company which will help pay out of pocket costs in Original Medicare.

Medigap cover can cover costs such as coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles. Medigap offers coverage for services Original Medicare doesn’t cover, such as medical care when you travel outside of the U.S. However they generally don’t cover long-term care (care in a nursing home), vision, dental, hearing aids, private-duty nursing, or prescription drugs.

For questions and inquiries about signing up for Medicare visit, or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.