How to Sign Up

What you have to do to sign up for Medicare depends on how you qualify and if you want Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, or a Medicare Cost plan.

Original Medicare is automatic for some people, but not others, while anybody who wants a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Cost plan has to sign up. And, even if you get Original Medicare automatically, you still need to sign up for a Part D plan.

You should also think about applying for a Medicare Savings Program (MSP) and the Low Income Subsidy (LIS) — many people lose out on this help because they never bother to apply.

If you need help, call the Senior LinkAge Line® at 1-800-333-2433 or Medicare at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY).

Signing Up for Original Medicare

Some people automatically start getting Original Medicare coverage without having to sign up. This includes anybody who:

If you are in one of these situations, you get a notice in the mail three to four months before your Medicare is supposed to start. The notice will tell you:

If you do not automatically start getting Medicare benefits, you can sign up for Original Medicare Parts A and B:

Learn more about signing up for Original Medicare.

Declining Part B

If you decline Part B coverage:

  • You can usually only sign up again between January 1 and March 31 of each year, which is called the General Enrollment Period, and your Medicare Part B coverage begins on July 1 of that year.
  • If you lose employer-sponsored coverage, you can sign up for Part B outside of the general enrollment period. You have eight months to sign up, starting with the month when the job ends or when you lose your coverage, whichever happens sooner. If you sign up during those eight months, you don’t have to pay monthly penalties.
    • Note: If you don't sign up for Part D and then you lose your employer-sponsored coverage, you only have 63 days to sign up for Part D without paying monthly penalties.
    • Note: This does not apply to retirement health coverage. You or your spouse must be working and getting employer-sponsored coverage to avoid penalites if you don't sign up for Part B.

Important: If you also have Medical Assistance (MA) or Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD) coverage, do not decline Part B or Part D coverage. If you decline them, MA (or MA-EPD) won't pay for what they would have covered.

Signing Up for Private Plans: Part D, Medigap, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Cost Plans

If you have government-run Original Medicare, you have the options of also getting a privately managed Part D prescription drug policy and a privately run Medigap policy (Medicare Supplement Insurance). Note: Medigap policies do not include prescription drug coverage.

Or, you may decide that you want a privately run Medicare Advantage or Medicare Cost plan that includes all the benefits you need. If you choose a Medicare Cost plan, you also get to keep Original Medicare coverage for out-of-network expenses. Note: Most Medicare Advantage and Medicare Cost plans include prescription drug coverage, but some allow you to sign up for a separate Part D plan instead.

Important: Medicare Cost plans are not an option in most counties and are being phased out. If you have any questions about this, call the Senior LinkAge Line® at 1-800-333-2433.

For all of these types of privately managed Medicare benefits, the signup process is basically the same:

  1. You decide which types of plans you want to sign up for.
  2. You research the private plans you are looking at:
  3. You sign up:
    • On Medicare.gov
    • By calling Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 or 1-877-486-2048 (TTY)
    • By calling the Senior LinkAge Line® at 1-800-333-2433
    • By completing a paper application with the plan, or
    • By contacting the plan directly.

Note: If you qualify for Medicare and also get MA or MA-EPD, you are automatically signed up for a Part D plan.

When to Sign Up for Part D, Medicare Cost, or Medicare Advantage Plans

When you should sign up for a Part D, Medicare Cost, or Medicare Advantage plan (or switch from Medicare Advantage back to Original Medicare) depends on your situation:

  1. You can sign up, switch, or drop plans at any time if you:
  2. If your Medicare coverage is just starting, you can sign up anytime during the three months before and after your Medicare coverage starts. This is called the initial enrollment period.
  3. You can add, drop, or switch plans every October 15 - December 7. This is called the annual election period. Any changes you make start on January 1 of the following year. Note: If you want to switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare with Part D, you can do so until February 14.
  4. For Medicare Cost plans, as long as the plan has open enrollment, you can enroll at any time and return to Original Medicare at any time. Note: Medicare Cost plans are not an option in most counties.
When to sign up for Medigap (Medicare Supplement Insurance)

Medigap enrollment works differently than other private Medicare plans. If you don’t sign up during Medigap’s six-month open enrollment period (the first six months after you sign up for Part B), they are allowed to deny you coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

Learn more about Medigap enrollment or call the Senior LinkAge Line® at 1-800-333-2433 to get live help.

Applying for Help to Pay for Medicare

You can apply for a Medicare Savings Program by filling out the Minnesota Health Care Programs Application for Certain Populations and taking it or mailing it to your local county human services agency.

You can apply for the Low Income Subsidy online or at your local Social Security office.

Note: If you have Medical Assistance (MA) coverage as well as Medicare, you may already be getting help from an MSP and the LIS automatically.

Learn more about MSPs and the LIS. If you want to talk with someone about them, call the Senior LinkAge Line® at 1-800-333-2433.