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Getting started with Medicare

When and how to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B

If you're approaching age 65—the age when most people first become eligible for Medicare—you probably have some questions. We can help.

Depending on your personal situation, you may or may not have to enroll in Medicare.

Most people age 65 and older who are citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. are eligible for Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) without paying a monthly plan premium. You're eligible for free Medicare Part A if you're 65 and:

  • You receive or will be eligible for Social Security benefits OR
  • You receive or will be eligible for railroad retirement benefits OR
  • You or your spouse (living, deceased, or divorced) had employment where Medicare taxes were paid for 40 or more quarters.

If none of these situations apply to you, you can still get Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) by paying a monthly plan premium if you're a U.S. citizen or have been lawfully admitted to the U.S. and lived here for at least 5 years.

You're eligible for Medicare Part B (medical insurance) if you're eligible for Part A. Part B is optional, and you'll need to pay a premium based on your income.

If you... Then...
Plan to retire at age 65 or are not working, and don't already receive Social Security You can enroll in Medicare benefits.
Already receive Social Security retirement, disability or railroad retirement benefits You'll automatically be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B.
Are currently covered by an employer-provided group health plan Talk to your human resources department before you enroll in Medicare.
Plan to continue working past age 65 You have the option to delay enrolling in Medicare Part B. Delaying may affect when you can enroll in a Medicare Supplement policy, a Medicare Advantage plan, or a Part D prescription drug plan.

Note: If you’re under 65 and eligible for Medicare due to disability or end stage renal (kidney) disease (ESRD), you’ll automatically get Part A and Part B after you get disability benefits from Social Security for 24 months, or certain disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board for 24 months.

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Good to know: Want extra protection? Keep in mind that you must be enrolled in Medicare BEFORE you can purchase other coverage that helps pick up where Medicare leaves off. If you’re turning 65, the best time to enroll in Medicare is during the 3 months before your 65th birthday. This helps to ensure that you can enroll in other coverage options—and have benefits ready for you when you turn 65.

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Enrolling in Medicare

 When to enroll

Your initial enrollment period is a 7-month timeframe. It includes:

  • The 3 months before the month you turn 65,
  • Your birth month, and
  • The 3 months after your birth month.

 What you'll need
  • An original or certified copy of your birth certificate,
  • Any W-2 forms you have from the last 2 years, and
  • Your Social Security card or number.

 How to enroll
  • To request an application, visit the Social Security Administration office nearest you or
  • call 1-800-772-1213 weekdays, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.  (TTY: 1-800-325-0778)
  • Once completed, you’ll receive your Medicare card in the mail.

© 2018 Premera Blue Cross is an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association serving businesses and residents of Alaska and Washington state, excluding Clark County. Premera Blue Cross is an HMO plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in Premera Blue Cross depends on contract renewal. This information is not a complete description of benefits. Call 888-868-7767 (TTY/TDD: 711) 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for more information. To join a Premera Blue Cross Medicare Advantage Plan, you must have Medicare Part A and Part B and live in the Premera Blue Cross Medicare Advantage service area (King, Pierce, Lewis, Skagit, Snohomish, Spokane, Stevens, Thurston, and Whatcom counties in Washington). Members must select a Primary Care Provider (PCP) from the Premera Blue Cross Medicare Advantage Plans provider network. For accommodation of persons with special needs at sales meetings, call 888-868-7767 (TTY/TDD: 711), 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.