By: Eligibility Team | April 6, 2016

After you enroll in Medicare, you’ll receive one or more cards showing that you’ve enrolled in the program.

The Different Types of Medicare Cards

Initially, you’ll receive a Medicare card (which is red, white, and blue) in the mail. Usually this happens around three months before your 65th birthday (if you’re automatically enrolled in the program) or your 25th month of receiving disability benefits. The card will indicate whether you have Part A (hospital insurance), Part B (medical insurance) or both (collectively called “Original Medicare”), along with the date your coverage starts. It will also show the phone number for Medicare’s help line.

You’ll get a separate card if you join a Part D prescription drug plan.

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Those who choose to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan, such as an HMO or PPO, or another Medicare health plan that has prescription drug coverage, will get a card to use for hospital and doctor visits, as well as when filling drug prescriptions.

Those who have a Medigap policy will also get a card for that.

When You Have to Use the Cards

You’ll have to show the appropriate card to your doctor, hospital, pharmacy, or other health care provider when you receive health services, or get prescription drugs. For this reason, it’s important to keep your Medicare cards in good condition.

Laminating Your Medicare Card

The Medicare ID card for Original Medicare is printed on thick, white paper. While it’s important to keep your Medicare card in decent condition, the Social Security Administration says that you shouldn’t laminate the card. Technically, there’s no rule against lamination, but it could cause issues with the security features of the card or when the card is scanned after you present it to the hospital or doctor’s office.

However, you certainly can cover your Medicare card with plastic or another type of removable material if doing so will not damage the card. One alternative to lamination to consider is a plastic ID card holder, which will protect the card and keep it safe from harm.

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Those who decide to laminate the card anyway should go ahead and sign the card beforehand. This is because if you try to sign the card after lamination, your signature will be difficult or impossible to decipher and a medical provider might refuse to accept it.

If you do laminate the card without signing it, you can easily request a replacement online by going to the Social Security Administration (SSA) website, calling the SSA, or going to your local Social Security office.