When and How to Apply for Medicare Benefits

Some people are automatically enrolled in, and others have to manually sign up for Medicare benefits. How do you know which category you fall into? Most citizens are not eligible until they turn 65, but you may also qualify for Medicare if you are under 65 and have been on disability for 24 months or have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) or End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD).

Typically you will automatically be enrolled if the following applies to you:

  • You are turning 65 and already receiving Social Security(SS) or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits.
  • You are under 65 and are receiving disability benefits from SS or RRB. Once you have been receiving benefits for 24 months, you will be automatically enrolled in both Part A and B.
  • You have ALS. Your Part A and B benefits will start automatically once your disability benefits begin.

If you fall under one of these automatic enrollment categories, your red, white, and blue Medicare card will usually arrive about 3 months before you turn 65 or your 25th month with disability benefits. If you do not want your Part B benefits, you will need to dis-enroll by following the instructions that came with your card as well as sending the card back. If you keep your card, you will also keep Part B which has premiums associated with it.

If none of these apply to you, then you will need to apply for Medicare benefits. 

  • If you are turning 65 but not receiving SS or RRB benefits.
  • If you have ESRD, you will need to apply.

If you need to manually enroll, there are a few options for you:

  • Apply online
  • Visit the local Social Security Office
  • Call Social Security at 800.772.1213 (or RRB at 877.772.5772). Yes, you sign up for Medicare through the Social Security Administration.


apply for medicare