How to Apply for Social Security Medicare Program Benefits

The Social Security Medicare program is a type of health coverage that’s provided for American citizens and legal residents aged 65 and older, though there are some exceptions to this minimum age requirement. The general idea is that the program provides health insurance security for people who have reached retirement age, when the benefits it provides are often needed the most.

People under the age of 65 can apply for Medicare coverage as well, and they may be accepted into the program if they receive Social Security disability payments or if they are suffering from permanent kidney failure. If you are under 65 but think you qualify, the best way to confirm this is to apply to the program and find out.

The Application Process

The easiest way to apply for Medicare is by using the online application form. You’ll need to enter all the essential information, such as your name, address, and date of birth. You may also need to supply proof of eligibility if you are under 65. If you’re planning on applying for more than Part A, you may also be asked to include banking information so that any payments required can be deducted from your bank account each month. The application has a place for you to indicate which Medicare programs you want to sign up for.

When to Apply

You should apply for Medicare about three months before you turn 65 years old, or as soon as you become eligible due to a medical condition. Failure to apply during the enrollment period can mean that you might have to wait to enroll in some parts of Medicare or that you might have to pay additional costs to enroll outside of the enrollment period.

Choosing the Right Coverage

Medicare has multiple programs within it, each of which performs a specific function.The main parts of the plan are:
  • Part A: This is the most basic portion of Medicare and is provided to all eligible people at no charge. Part A covers your expenses in the event you must be hospitalized. Enroll in Medicare Part A three months before you turn 65, even if you are not planning on retirement in the immediate future.
  • Part B: Medicare Part B gives you supplemental medical coverage for costs outside of hospital charges, and pays for things such as doctor visits and certain medications, including chemotherapy, that are administered by a doctor or trained staff. If you don’t have other medical coverage, it’s best to enroll in Medicare Part B at the same time that you enroll in Part A.
  • Part C: Medicare Part C is another name for the Medicare Advantage Plan, which is an HMO or PPO. Part C replaces parts A and B and usually D as well. This all-inclusive coverage has specific provider and facility requirements, but the trade-off is that you’ll typically have little or nothing in the way of co-pays for treatment and medication, plus with some plans you may be covered for vision and dental as well. You have to sign up for Part C during the annual enrollment period unless you qualify for a special enrollment period, SEP, due to moving, being placed in a long-term care facility, you’re eligible for Medicaid, you want to change to a 5-star Advantage Plan, or you qualify for another exception.
  • Part D: Medicare Part D is part of the Medicare program. It covers prescription medications. As with Part C, you can’t sign up for Part D anytime you want, you have to sign up during the enrollment period unless you qualify for an SEP.
Whichever parts of Medicare you want to enroll in, start by going to the Social Security Medicare program website, and fill out your application there. If any information is missing, you’ll be contacted to supply it before your application is approved.