Where to Start When You Are New to Medicare

Most people are familiar with Medicare, but because so much information about the subject bounces around, it can all feel pretty overwhelming to anyone who is new to Medicare. You may be confused about what components of Medicare you should enroll in and what each cover. You may also be unsure of what you have to pay for and whether each part is needed or not.

We are here to help those who are new to Medicare. By keeping you informed of your options and the advantages or disadvantages of each, we hope to help you select the exact coverage you need. 

Choosing the right Medicare coverage and supplemental plans can make a huge difference. You could pay next to nothing out of pocket with one set of coverage but have high monthly premiums, or you could have next to $0 in premiums but risk paying high bills for hospitalization or doctor’s visits should you need healthcare.

To help you sort through these decisions and make a choice you’ll be happy with, take a look at the information below. It will help you get oriented if you are new to Medicare and teach you how to handle important tasks, like how to get your Medicare card.

Medicare in a Nutshell

If you are completely new to Medicare, you might want to take a look at our “What Is Medicare?” page for in-depth information on what Medicare is, how it works, and what types of coverage people tend to pick most often.

For now, here are some basic facts about Medicare to get everyone on the same page:

  • Medicare is a federally run health insurance program
  • Many optional components of Medicare are provided through private health insurance plans
  • Medicare mainly provides coverage to: 
    • People 65 and older
    • Qualifying people under 65 who have certain disabilities
    • Individuals who have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)
  • You can use Medicare as your primary coverage, or you can use it as secondary coverage to your employer’s plan if you have not retired by age 65
  • Medicare is different from Medicaid; the latter is a federal program for low-income individuals and families

AARP reports that 44 million U.S. residents are enrolled in the Medicare program — that’s 15% of the population! The program first started in 1966 but has grown over the years with new legislation and program restructuring.

Medicare is broken up into Parts A – D. In the most general terms, each part covers the following:

  • Part A (Hospital Insurance): Inpatient hospital admissions, extended hospital stays, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care, and some types of home health care
  • Part B (Medical Insurance): Doctor’s visits, emergency room visits, outpatient procedures and care, medical supplies, and preventative healthcare services
  • Part C (Medicare Advantage): Private health insurance provided within the Medicare program for various types of coverage, which adds to and replaces coverage provided within Part A, Part B, and Part D
  • Part D (Prescription Coverage): Private health insurance provided within the Medicare program for coverage of prescription drugs and other prescribed medicine

Everyone who enrolls in Medicare receives Part A coverage and can elect to receive Part B coverage. Both are forms of public health insurance provided by and run by the federal government.

How Do I Enroll in Medicare?

There are many ways to enroll in Medicare. Some of them happen automatically for those over 65 or those under 65 who have been receiving disability benefits. Other times, you may need to elect to enroll in Medicare.

Most people have a window to enroll in Medicare during their Initial Enrollment Period or IEP. This period begins three months before your 65th birthday includes the month of your 65th birthday, and extends three months after, equalling 7 months total.

If you have enrolled in retirement benefits during your IEP, such as to receive Social Security retirement benefits, then you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A. You can elect to sign up for Medicare Part B during the same time you register for retirement benefits.

Individuals who worked in the railroad industry and who qualify for Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)  benefits similarly receive automatic enrollment for Medicare Part A and optional enrollment for Medicare Part B when they turn 65.

Individuals who receive certain disability benefits from Social Security or the RRB are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B after 24 months of receiving benefits.

If you are not eligible for retirement benefits from Social Security or the RRB, such as if you didn’t work for at least 10 years, then you can still enroll in Medicare Part A and, optionally, Part B during your IEP.

If you have questions about whether you qualify, whether you are enrolled, how to enroll or wish to enroll in Medicare you can:

  • Find more information and enroll at the official www.SocialSecurity.gov website
  • Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, from 7 AM to 7 PM
  • Visit your local Social Security office in person

How to Get a New Medicare Card

Your red, white, and blue Medicare card acts as your insurance card, and it declares which components of the program you are enrolled in. It contains your unique Medicare ID number, which acts similarly to your Social Security number for purposes of identification and processing.

In short, your Medicare card is quite important. It proves you have Medicare, and you must present it during most medical appointments or when you intend to use your coverage to pay for devices or prescriptions.

The process for how to get a new Medicare card is quite simple. 

In fact, if you qualify for retirement benefits and are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and/or Part B, you won’t have to do anything! You will receive your red, white, and blue card in the mail around three months before your 65th birthday or on the 25th month of receiving Social Security disability benefits.

If you manually enrolled in Medicare through the www.SocialSecurity.gov website, through the toll-free Social Security number, or through your local Social Security office, then you should receive a Medicare card in the mail within 30 days.

If you have not yet received your card or are not sure about your enrollment status, contact the Social Security administration through their website, toll-free number, or local office.

One of our insurance agents here at MMIG can also assist you if you have any questions or are struggling to understand your eligibility criteria.

How to Replace a Lost or Stolen Medicare Card

If you had your red, white, and blue Medicare card and can’t find it for whatever reason, you may be wondering how to order a new Medicare card. You may also have moved and need to know how to update your address so that there are no conflicts within your record.

Again, your Medicare card is very important, so if you have lost it, you think it was stolen, or it is badly damaged, notify the Social Security office as soon as possible.

The process for replacing your Medicare card is similar to how to get a new Medicare card.

Your easiest route is by visiting www.SocialSecurity.gov and requesting a replacement. You’ll probably be asked to provide your:

  • Full legal name as it is printed on your Medicare card
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Contact information, such as a phone number or email address

You may also be asked to answer questions to confirm your identity, such as the hometown you were born in or your Mother’s maiden name. Note that you must complete each page of the replacement card application within 30 minutes. Otherwise, a security feature will time out and force you to start over.

If you do not wish to use the Social Security website, you can also call their toll-free number or visit your local office.

After completing and verifying your replacement card application, you will likely receive your new Medicare card in the mail within 30 days. Make sure your address is current since the Social Security Administration (SSA) will use this address to mail your card.

Have Other Questions?

Visit our Medicare information portal for more briefings and pointers on how to get started with Medicare and how to order a new Medicare card. You can also contact our office for assistance and to explore your options for plans and supplemental coverage that can meet your needs and Protect What’s Ahead.

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