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What Documents Do I Need To Apply For Medicare? Get Ready To Enroll

A pen on top of a Medicare Enrollment Form.

If you are approaching age 65, you are likely already considering your Medicare coverage options. Younger individuals can also qualify for Medicare in some cases, but do you know what documentation you will need when you apply? The Medicare application process is not that difficult, but it requires some specific documents. Your specific situation will likely determine which documents are needed and which ones are not. If you are getting ready to apply for Medicare, then keep reading. We will tell you all the documents you might need to submit along with your application.


Documents Needed For Original Medicare Enrollment

A USA naturalization certificate on top of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services letterhead.

When you’re ready to sign up for Medicare health insurance, most people choose to enroll in both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. However, you can choose to opt out of Medicare Part B since there is a monthly premium required for that coverage. Regardless of which option you choose, the documentation required to sign up will be the same. Here are the documents you will need to provide.


— Birth Certificate

Since the most common way to qualify for Medicare is by reaching 65 years of age, you will need your birth certificate to prove your age. Typically, your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday. So, you can use your birth certificate to validate your age and the start of your enrollment period. Younger individuals with disabilities or certain conditions can also qualify for Medicare, although a birth certificate is almost always still needed.


— Social Security Card

Medicare uses your Social Security number as a way to prove your identity and verify your benefit enrollment. Sometimes simply knowing your Social Security number is enough, but Medicare might require your Social Security card in some cases. This is especially true when you are already receiving Social Security benefits from the Social Security Administration.

If you have lost your Social Security Card, you can find out how to quickly replace one here.


— Proof Of U.S. Citizenship

You will generally need to be a U.S. citizen to sign up for Medicare healthcare coverage. There are a couple of different documents you can use to prove your citizenship. A U.S. birth certificate will usually work, and you can also use a U.S. passport to prove that you are a citizen. Without these documents, Medicare might not be able to verify your eligibility for Medicare benefits. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you can still qualify for benefits, but you will need the documentation mentioned in the next section.


— Permanent Resident Card

If you are not a U.S. citizen, it is still possible to qualify for Medicare benefits. Prior to your Medicare application, you will need to be a permanent resident who has lived in the United States for five continuous years. You should be prepared to show your green card, and Medicare will let you know if any additional documentation is needed.


— Military Service Records

If you served in the military, you should be prepared to show your military service records. You might also qualify for health insurance through the Veterans Affairs office, and there are some special rules about Medicare and VA insurance. You can still get Medicare in most cases, but they must verify that all the rules are met. If you did not serve in the military, then you will not need to worry about providing this type of documentation.


— Tax Returns

Be prepared to provide your tax returns from the previous year and any self-employment tax information you may have. Since your Medicare Part B premium is determined by your income, Medicare will need verification of your income when you apply for benefits. Although original documents are necessary for much of your documentation, photocopies of your tax returns will suffice.


— Other Health Insurance Information

Some people who qualify for Medicare might also have other health insurance. This could be group health insurance through an employer-sponsored plan or some other kind of medical insurance. In those cases, you might be able to use Medicare in conjunction with your other health insurance. To verify whether you can do this, Medicare will need details about your other coverage. If you have other coverage, be prepared to provide your insurance card or other plan documentation to Medicare when you apply for benefits.


Medicare Eligibility Requirements

Now that you know what documents you need to enroll in Medicare, you need to understand how to qualify for it. You must meet the eligibility requirements before you can sign up for Medicare. So, who is eligible for Medicare? There are three main ways to qualify for coverage. Medicare is available to those age 65 and older, younger individuals with a disability, and those who are diagnosed with end-stage renal disease.

In addition, you will need to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to qualify for Medicare benefits. If you are not a citizen, you must have lived in the United States for at least five continuous years immediately prior to your application for a Medicare health plan. You will likely need to prove your legal residency by providing your green card or other documentation along with your application. If additional information is needed, then Medicare will notify you to provide other documentation. You can learn more about the eligibility requirements at or by calling 1-800-Medicare.


How To Enroll In Medicare

There are a couple of different ways you can get enrolled in Medicare. In some cases, you will be enrolled automatically. If you are already receiving retirement benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board on your 65th birthday, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare coverage. You should receive your Medicare card in the mail, and you can begin using those benefits. Similarly, if you receive Social Security disability benefits for 24 months, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare.

For those not receiving Social Security benefits, you will need to apply for Medicare benefits when you reach 65. You can apply for Medicare online through the Social Security Administration’s website at The online application process is quick and easy, and most of the information needed can be submitted on the application itself. Depending on your situation, you might need to submit original versions of some of the documents already mentioned above.

You can also apply for Medicare coverage over the phone or in person. Simply call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to apply for benefits. You can also make an appointment at your local Social Security office to apply for Medicare benefits. Be prepared to bring your driver’s license to your appointment to prove your identity, along with the other documentation already mentioned.

If you wish to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or Medigap plan, you will need to contact the insurance company that manages the plan directly. If you already have Original Medicare, the insurance company will require your Medicare number and the date on which your Medicare coverage started. This information can be found on your Medicare card. If you have lost it, you can always request a replacement Medicare card online through your My Social Security account.


When To Enroll In Medicare

An elderly couple rearranging some boxes.

So when is the best time to enroll in Medicare? Do you have to sign up as soon as you gain eligibility? The answer is no, but it is usually best to do so.

Medicare enrollment periods can be confusing, but here are the basics. Your initial enrollment period runs for seven months. It begins three months before the month of your 65th birthday, runs through your birthday month, and extends for three months beyond your birthday. During this period, you can sign up for Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, Medicare Part C, or Medicare Supplement insurance without any penalties. This is usually the best time to enroll in coverage.

There is also an open enrollment period and a general enrollment period each year. The open enrollment period runs from October 15 to December 7. During this time, you can switch back and forth between your Original Medicare and a Medicare Advantage plan. You can also add or change Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. The general enrollment period runs from January 1 through March 31 each year. You can enroll in Medicare during this time if you failed to enroll during your initial enrollment period, but know that you might need to pay a late enrollment penalty in some cases.

Finally, you might be eligible for a special enrollment period if you were still covered by an employer-sponsored health plan when you became eligible for Medicare. This period runs for eight months from the end of your employment, and you can sign up for Medicare during this period without a penalty.

As you can see, signing up for Medicare during your initial enrollment period is usually the best option unless you can qualify for a special enrollment period later. Failure to sign up during your initial enrollment period will result in late enrollment penalties if you decide to sign up at a later time. You can always switch from one plan to another or change coverage in subsequent years without a penalty, as long as you do so during the proper open or general enrollment period.


Enrolling In Medicare Advantage Plans Or Medigap

You probably already know that Original Medicare is made up of Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B coverage. This combines your Part A hospital insurance with your Part B medical insurance. But what if you want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan? These plans are managed by private insurance companies, and they combine all your Medicare coverage into a single plan that is usually easier to manage. These plans must provide at least the same minimum level of coverage as Original Medicare, but many of them include many additional benefits, like vision coverage, dental coverage, a prescription drug plan, gym memberships, and much more.

If you want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or Medigap plan, you will need to find plans available in your area. The plans available to you will depend on the geographic area in which you live. You can use the Medicare plan finder tool to look for plans in your location. Once you have found the plans available, you should make sure to compare the total cost of each plan. Remember to account for the monthly premium as well as any deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance amounts. It is often a good idea to speak with a licensed insurance agent in your area who can walk you through the available options. Once you decide on a plan, simply contact the insurance company and provide your personal details. They will get you enrolled and send your insurance card directly to you.


What To Do If You Have Lost Any Required Documents

So, what happens if you are trying to enroll in Medicare coverage but have lost a document that you need? For instance, you might not be able to find your birth certificate. In that case, you will need to contact the issuing agency of the document to obtain a new version. For birth certificates, you will typically need to contact the State Department of Health in the state where you were born. They can issue a new certified copy of the document to you.

If you need copies of your old tax returns, you will need to contact the IRS for assistance. Previous military records can usually be obtained by contacting the branch of service in which you served. This shows the importance of locating these documents before applying for Medicare. If you need to get a replacement document, you should know that getting a replacement can sometimes take several weeks. So, start the process early to make sure you have all your documentation in plenty of time before you start the Medicare enrollment process.


The Bottom Line

When you’re ready to sign up for Medicare, you will need some documents to go along with your application. Thankfully, the documents required should be ones that you already have readily available. You will need your birth certificate, Social Security card, proof of citizenship, tax records, and a couple of other things. If you have lost any of these documents, you will need to get a new one from the issuing agency. Go ahead and start the process early to make sure that you have all the required documents when you start your Medicare application.


Frequently Asked Questions


How do I enroll in Medicare for the first time?

The easiest way to enroll in Medicare for the first time is by completing a Medicare application online. If you are unable to complete an online application, you can also complete your application over the phone or in person at your local Social Security office. Those who wish to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan should contact the insurance company that manages the plan to determine how to get signed up.


How long does it take to apply for Medicare online?

The online application for Medicare is not complex, and it should take you less than 20 minutes to complete. You can use the online application to provide Medicare with almost all the information they need to get you enrolled in coverage. In some cases, you might be required to submit additional documentation. If Medicare needs additional documents, they will contact you directly and inform you of which documents are needed.


How long does it take to get approved for Medicare?

Most Medicare applications are approved within 30 to 60 days. You can expect to receive your Medicare card in the mail within two weeks of your application’s approval. If your application is not approved, you should get additional communication from Medicare that explains the reason. You might simply be missing some documentation, or you might not qualify for Medicare benefits.


How do I get a replacement Medicare card?

You can request a replacement Medicare card online through your My Social Security account. You will usually receive your new card in the mail within two weeks of the request. If you lose your Medicare card, you should immediately request a replacement. Most healthcare providers will require your Medicare card when you receive treatment. Without this card, you might be refused treatment or be required to pay for the service in full at the time the service is performed.


How much does it cost to enroll in Medicare?

As long as you have enough work credits, you can qualify for premium-free Part A coverage. Part B coverage comes with a monthly premium of $164.90 in 2023. If your income is high, your Part B premium could increase as well. You will also be responsible for deductibles, copays, and coinsurance amounts when you receive treatment. Those who decide to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan will likely have different costs. The insurance companies that manage those plans are allowed to set their own rules about costs, so you would need to contact the insurance company to determine the monthly premium and any cost-sharing amounts.