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There are several ways to sign up for Medicare once you know you are eligible to apply. You must know when to turn in your Medicare application because there are penalties for applying after your initial enrollment period. When you apply to Medicare, you need to understand the documentation that you have to present as well as the different available application methods. Learn more about how to apply for Medicare and what you should know about enrollment periods below.

Find Out When to Submit a Medicare Enrollment Application

You should register for Medicare during the seven-month period in which you first qualify for benefits. The initial enrollment period for Medicare as a senior citizen begins three months before you reach the age of eligibility and includes the month you become of age and three months after your birthday. Although you can sign up for Medicare any time in these seven months, the date your coverage begins will depend on when you enrolled. For example, if you enrolled during the month of your birthday or within the three months after that, then your Medicare Part A or Part B coverage may be delayed. You need to understand exactly when to enroll in Medicare to make sure that you get your benefits in time and to avoid penalties and late fees.

However, if you did not apply during your initial enrollment period you may be eligible for a special Medicare enrollment period. You can sign up for Medicare during a special enrollment period (SEP) if you had medical insurance coverage through your or your spouse’s employment when you were first eligible. You will only be eligible for a SEP if you were covered by a group health insurance plan during your initial enrollment period. The SEP is an eight-month period that starts the month after the employment or insurance coverage ends. If you meet the requirements for a special enrollment period for Medicare, then you will not be penalized for enrolling late as long as you enroll during the SEP.

If you miss your initial enrollment period for Medicare and you are not eligible for a SEP, then you will need to take part in the annual Medicare enrollment before getting your Medicare benefits. This general Medicare enrollment period begins and ends in the first quarter of the year, every year. However, Medicare coverage does not activate until the second half of the year. If you need to make any changes to your Medicare coverage or want to re-enroll, then you will need to do it during this general enrollment period.

Download our free guide for information about Medicare enrollment periods and understand when you need to enroll to avoid penalties and coverage delays.

What happens if you submit a Medicare health insurance application late?

If you do not apply for Medicare during your initial enrollment period, then you will have to wait until the annual enrollment period or a SEP if you qualify. Part B Medicare enrollment is optional because it includes a premium, but if you apply late you will be subject to late enrollment penalties. If you you want to get Medicare Part B coverage after your initial enrollment period, your monthly premium will be higher. It will go up by a percentage for each year that you were eligible to get Medicare Part B but decided not to apply. However, this penalty will not apply if you had group coverage during your initial enrollment period and qualify for a special enrollment period.

Learn About the Documentation Required as Part of the Medicare Health Insurance Application

When you sign up for Medicare, you may need to present documentation depending on the method of application you choose. The documents you will need to present include proof of citizenship or legal residency, income information, current or recent health insurance information and United States military discharge papers if applicable. Download our helpful guide to get more information on the documents you need during the Medicare application process.

About Medicare Online Applications

The easiest way for seniors to enroll in Medicare coverage is by filing an application online through the designated website. The online Medicare application has a number of benefits including:

  • Saving time by avoiding trips to the Social Security Administration office
  • Being able to start and stop your application and to make corrections before turning it in
  • Submitting the Medicare application at any time of day instead of only during office hours

Once you apply for Medicare online, you can use the confirmation number you got to check the status of your application. If the Social Security Administration needs any information to process your Medicare health insurance application like your date of birth, proof of citizenship, your Social Security Number or any other documentation, you will be contacted.

Tips for Enrolling in Medicare in Person

You can sign up for Medicare in person by visiting your local Social Security Administration office. Make sure that you bring all necessary documents for the Medicare application process with you or you may need to come back later with the forms. Most offices require that you schedule an appointment before going.

Learn Other Ways to Enroll in Medicare

If you prefer to sign up for Medicare by speaking with the Social Security Administration but do not want to visit their local office, then you can also register for Medicare by calling the SSA during normal business hours. Normal business hours are Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.