COVID-19 has changed countless aspects of our day-to-day lives. From social distancing to businesses becoming online only, the present-day effects of coronavirus are all around us.
When it comes to applying for Medicare, however, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t changed things all that much, with one exception: You cannot currently apply for Medicare in-person at the Social Security office.
But if you’re new to Medicare, you can sign up for Part A and Part B over the phone and online, just like before.
Right now, more than ever, applying for Medicare online is especially useful. We’ll show you how in just five steps.
Applying for Medicare online
Signing up for Medicare online is an easy process if you’ve never enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B. Follow these steps:
- Ensure you’re eligible for Medicare.
- Go to the Social Security Administration website.
- Follow the instructions on the site—it takes about 10 minutes.
- Mail in the required documents to the Social Security office. (The online form will tell you which documents you’ll need to send.)
- Wait for your red, white, and blue Medicare card to arrive in the mail.
Heads up: When sending in your documents, pay close attention. The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires original or certified copies of some documents, like your birth certificate, but allows photocopies of others, like your W-2. They’ll even ask you not to mail in certain documents that could be hard to replace. Either way, just follow the guidelines and the SSA will send your documents back as soon as they can.
That’s it—pretty simple. But what if you’re already enrolled in Medicare Part A and now you need Part B?
Applying for Medicare Part B if you already have Part A
Unfortunately, if you apply for only Part A during your initial enrollment period, you cannot later apply for Part B online.
Many people delay signing up for Medicare Part B (medical insurance) during their Initial Enrollment Period because they’re still working and have health insurance through an employer. However, most still sign up for Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) since it’s free. And that makes a lot of sense; you can often get more services covered or the same services covered better this way.
In light of sweeping business closures and unexpected job loss from the COVID-19 pandemic, many Medicare Beneficiaries with Medicare Part A and employer health care plans find themselves without jobs—and without adequate health care coverage. Many who weren’t planning on retiring so soon suddenly need to apply for Medicare Part B.
Although there are a few extra hoops to jump through to enroll in only Medicare Part B (since you can’t add Part B online), you can still complete the process in a few steps.
How to apply for Medicare Part B if you already have Part A:
- Download and fill out the form to Enroll in Part B.
- Print out the form and sign it.
- Download and fill out Section A of the form regarding your employment information. This form proves that you are eligible for a Special Enrollment Period.
- Print out the form and send it to your former employer to complete Section B.
- If your employer cannot fill out Section B, you can fill it out instead. It doesn’t require a signature, but you will need to provide supporting documents that prove health insurance coverage. For a list of accepted documents, visit the Getting Help from Social Security section of the SSA’s website, and scroll down to the “Can I enroll in Medicare?” question.
- Send both forms by mail to a nearby Social Security office or by fax to 1-833-914-2016 (along with supporting documents if your employer didn’t fill out Section B).
- Wait for your red, white, and blue Medicare card in the mail.
Now that you’re ready to get Part B, be sure that you check out our complete guide to Medicare during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll give you information on testing, benefits, and up-to-date help regarding the crisis.