How To Enroll in Medicare when Federal Offices are Closed

Melinda Gann |

As COVID-19 restrictions loosen, offices are finally starting to resume their normal schedules. But now appointment schedules are booked out—often weeks or months in advance! Guest blogger Melinda Gann shares tips to help you navigate the process and get the benefits you need.

What’s a person to do? You need to apply for Medicare, but because of COVID-19, the Social Security offices are closed. If you were born in the US and turning 65, no problem…see below for online instructions. But if you fit into one of these categories, you have extra work to do and you need to do it quickly:

  • • You’re over 65.
  • You’ve been laid off or decided to retire and lost (or are losing) your employer group plan.
  • You’re turning 65 and were born outside the US.

Normally, you waltz into the Social Security office with your forms, and they take care of everything, right? Well, not during the COVID-19 ‘Safer at Home’ order. The Social Security offices are CLOSED…yikes! No need to panic yet…we’ve got your back and will help to make this a relatively easy process and bring you a bit of peace during this crazy coronavirus time!

How to apply for Medicare when you turn 65

If you were born in the US, it’s actually pretty easy to apply online. If you haven’t already, register for an account through an account with Social Security. If you already have a Social Security account, make sure your user name and password work. You’ll need those when you apply for Medicare. You can apply 3 months before your birth month.

But what if you’re still working, have insurance through work and don’t need Medicare yet?

In that case, you may just want to apply for Part A (for most people, $0 premium) and delay Part B (premium depends on your income). There are reasons you may want to apply for both Part A and Part B though:

  • Your employer plan isn’t that good and/or you have to pay a lot of moolah for the plan
  • The employer you work for has UNDER 20 employees (you must enroll in both Part A and Part B)

How to apply for Medicare when you’re over 65, coming off an employer insurance plan, or were born outside the US

If you’ve worked past 65 and now decided to retire (or even if it wasn’t your decision), or you were born outside the US, your process is a little tricker because you have to get some documents to the Social Security Administration. The easiest thing to do is call us and we’ll guide you. But if you’d like to start the process, we’ve had several people that have received their Part A and Part B during COVID-19 stay-in-place orders by following our guidance.

If you worked past 65 and now need your Medicare in place, there are two forms you will need.

1. Part B Application

2. Request for Employer Info

Employers normally need to complete the employer info; however, CMS waived this requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic since many HR people were not accessible. You must submit proof of employment and Group Health Plan (GHP), or Large Group Health Plan (LGHP). A copy of your ID card would work.

In a normal time (when you can walk into the Social Security office), we suggest 6 weeks lead time, but since the mail is involved, you’ll want at least 2 months now that you have to go through the mail. For those born outside the US, the Social Security Administration usually needs you to provide additional documentation (Naturalization Certificate, Birth Certificate, etc.), which is why you should call them first to find out exactly which documents they will need.

Here are the steps:

1. Complete the Part B Application and Request for Employer Info.

2. Call Social Security (800-772-1213). We suggest calling as early as possible (7 a.m.). Be prepared to hold for a while.

3. Let them know you need to apply for your Part B and the date you will need it to begin.

4. VERY IMPORTANT: For everyone you speak to, record their name, the date, time, badge number, employee ID number, direct phone number, their ATM PIN number (just kidding)…ANYTHING they will give you.

5. They are requesting you mail your application to your local Social Security office; however, if they will give you a name, that would be preferable.

6. Make copies of the documents for your records.

7. Include a cover sheet explaining which Part B effective date you want (they always backdate the Part A 6 months).

8. Put sticky notes all over everything to make sure they understand your request. Print really large, e.g., “COVID-19 PRIORITY INPUT NEEDED!” You can’t have enough sticky notes!

9. Mail the originals via Priority Mail or another service that allows you to obtain a signed receipt. Hold on to that receipt!

10. Put a follow-up on your calendar for 2 to 3 weeks from the date you mailed it. If you haven’t received a confirmation in the mail, call them back.

Yes, it’s more work than normal but it can be done! Once you get your confirmation and/or Medicare ID card, you can call your insurance agent to talk about Supplemental plans. A version of this blog was previously published on the HIR Insurance Agency website.