How to Sign Up for Medicare

How to Sign Up for Medicare

By Pat Brown, MBA

Signing up for Medicare can seem daunting, but with the right information, the process can be straightforward. Whether you’re approaching 65 or qualify under other conditions, here’s a comprehensive guide on how to sign up for Medicare.

Step 1: Understand the Basics of Medicare

Before enrolling, it’s important to understand the different parts of Medicare:

  • Part A (Hospital Insurance): Covers inpatient hospital stays, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care, and some home health care.
  • Part B (Medical Insurance): Covers outpatient care, doctor visits, preventive services, and medical supplies.
  • Part C (Medicare Advantage): Offers an alternative to Original Medicare (Parts A and B) through private insurance companies and often includes additional benefits like vision, dental, and prescription drug coverage.
  • Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage): Provides coverage for prescription medications, available as standalone plans or included in Medicare Advantage plans.

Step 2: Determine Your Enrollment Period

There are specific periods when you can sign up for Medicare:

  • Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): This seven-month period starts three months before the month you turn 65, includes your birth month, and ends three months after your birth month.
  • General Enrollment Period (GEP): If you miss your IEP, you can enroll between January 1 and March 31 each year, with coverage starting on July 1. Late enrollment penalties may apply.
  • Special Enrollment Period (SEP): You may qualify for an SEP if you have certain life events, such as losing employer coverage or moving out of your plan’s service area.
  • Annual Enrollment Period (AEP): From October 15 to December 7 each year, you can change your Medicare coverage for the following year.
  • Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period: From January 1 to March 31 each year, for those already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan to make changes.

Step 3: Sign Up for Medicare Part A and Part B

Depending on your situation, you may be automatically enrolled, or you may need to sign up manually.

Automatic Enrollment

  • If you are already receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B starting the first day of the month you turn 65.

Manual Enrollment

  • If you are not receiving Social Security or RRB benefits, you will need to sign up manually.
  • Online: Visit the Social Security Administration (SSA) website at and complete the online application.
  • By Phone: Call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778).
  • In Person: Visit your local SSA office. It’s recommended to call and schedule an appointment in advance.

Step 4: Consider Additional Coverage

After enrolling in Original Medicare (Parts A and B), you may want to add additional coverage:

  • Medicare Advantage (Part C): Visit the Medicare Plan Finder on to compare plans and enroll directly through the private insurer.
  • Medicare Part D: Use the Medicare Plan Finder to select and enroll in a standalone Part D plan for prescription drug coverage.
  • Medicare Supplement (Medigap): Enroll in a Medigap plan during your six-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period, which starts the month you turn 65 and are enrolled in Part B. This ensures you get the best rates and avoid medical underwriting.

Step 5: Review and Compare Plans

Before enrolling in Medicare Advantage or Part D, review and compare plans to ensure you choose the best option for your needs. Consider factors such as:

  • Monthly premiums
  • Out-of-pocket costs
  • Coverage for specific medications or services
  • Network of doctors and hospitals

Step 6: Get Assistance if Needed

Navigating Medicare enrollment can be challenging, but help is available:

  • Our experts at offer free, personalized assistance to help you understand your options and make the best choices for your healthcare needs. Contact us at
  • State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP): Provides free, local counseling to Medicare beneficiaries.


Signing up for Medicare is a crucial step in ensuring you have the healthcare coverage you need as you age. By understanding the enrollment periods, knowing how to sign up for Parts A and B, considering additional coverage options, and seeking professional assistance, you can navigate the Medicare enrollment process with confidence. For personalized help, contact at

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