How to apply for Medicare while Social Security offices are closed
Updated: May 20
As you may know, our local Social Security (SS) offices are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. People approaching Medicare eligibiity age (65 usually) may be wondering how to apply for Medicare benefits if they can't go the local SS office. Read on, and all of your questions will be answered!
If you are already taking your SS income benefit:
Around 35% of those eligible for SS income benefits take them at age 62. Add another 20% or so that take their SS income benefit before their full retirement age. Bottom line, if you have taken your SS income benefit before age 65, you don't have to do anything to apply for Medicare. SS will automatically enroll you in Parts A and B and send you your Medicare card. Expect to get it around a month or so before your birth month.
If you are not taking SS and are about to turn 65:
If you are not taking your SS income benefit, you can apply for Medicare online at medicare.gov. In most cases, you will not need any assistance from a SS office or telephone agent. Contact me if you like and I can walk you through the process. (Always no cost or obligation for any assistance I provide.) It takes around half an hour or so by the time you jump through all the hoops. You can apply for Medicare starting three months before your birth month. Right now, I'd suggest you get started as early as possible.
If you worked beyond age 65 and kept your employer group health plan (EGHP):
If this describes you, Medicare may have already sent you a Medicare card showing an effective date for Part A only, not Part B. Whether that's the case or not, you will have to file two CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid) forms showing that you are leaving EGHP and that you want to activate your Part B coverage. I can email you the forms if you need them and also provide guidance on what to do with them. (Contact me here.) Again, I recommend you get started on this process as soon as possible because things are taking longer to get done these days.
I hope this is useful to those of you wondering about applying for Medicare right now. If you don't already have a trusted, local, independent agent, I'd pleased to work with you to help you get your Medicare card and to find the just-right plan for you. (Contact me here.) I emphasize "local, independent agent" because an independent agent will give you many more options than an agent that sells only his or her company. And "local" is important because your Medicare options depend on where you live. I live here and I know the local doctor and hospital networks and how to access them. Finally, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not use any form of Internet or TV come-on to use their website or toll-free number. Those people are generally not going to have your best interests in mind. Stay healthy...