Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage

Frequently Asked Questions

8. How does a person enroll in Medicare?

Enrollment in Medicare is automatic for a person who is turning 65 and who is already getting Social Security benefits, or who will start getting them at age 65. A Medicare card will be mailed out about three months before the 65th birthday. If a person isn't getting Social Security benefits when he or she turns age 65, the person will have to sign up for Medicare.

Automatic enrollment includes Part A and Part B. If people don't want Part B, they should follow the instructions that come with the card, and send the card back. If they keep the card, they keep Part B.

Enrollment is also automatic for a person who has been entitled to Social Security disability benefits for at least 24 months. A Medicare card is mailed out about 3 months before the 25th month of disability benefits.

A person with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) will get a Medicare card about 4 weeks after qualifying for Medicare.

A person with end-stage renal disease, or ESRD, does not need to be receiving Social Security disability benefits to qualify for Medicare, and may still be working.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administers Medicare, but the Social Security Administration (SSA) is responsible for enrolling most people in Medicare. The Railroad Retirement board is responsible for enrolling railroad retirees. For questions about Medicare enrollment, or to apply for Medicare benefits, call SSA at 1-800-772-1213, or go to to find out more.

(Watch the video for important information about Medicare Enrollment periods. To enlarge the video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner. To reduce the video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)