If you are a new beneficiary, getting your first Medicare card is automatic. The Social Security Administration will automatically enroll you in Medicare Part A as soon as you are eligible. For most people, the same is true of Medicare Part B.
In most cases, your red, white, and blue Medicare card will show up in your mail about three months prior to your Medicare eligibility date. If you’re turning 65, that means you’ll receive your card as early as two months prior to your birth month. If you have Social Security disability benefits, you’ll get your card about twenty-two months after your benefits started.
Some people are not enrolled automatically by Social Security. Others are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A (hospital insurance), but not in Medicare Part B (medical insurance). In this case, you need to enroll at your local Social Security Administration office, online through the SSA website, or by calling the toll-free number. After enrolling manually, you’ll receive your card in the mail in about 30 days.
Medicare Advantage Plan and Medicare Part D Plan Cards
If you switch from Original Medicare (e.g., Medicare Parts A and B) to a Medicare Advantage plan, or if you buy a Medicare Part D Plan, you cannot use your red, white, and blue Medicare card to receive services. That’s because all Medicare Advantage and Part D plans are private insurance, and each plan issues its own cards.
No matter when you enroll in a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, there will be a slight delay between the day you enroll and when you are first eligible to use the plan benefits. If you enroll during the Annual Election Period (AEP), which runs from 15 October to 7 December, your coverage starts on 1 January. If you enroll during your Individual Enrollment Period (IEP), your benefits begin on the 1st of the following month, or the first month you are eligible. In most cases, your card will arrive prior to the date on which benefits begin.
Getting a Replacement Medicare Card
If your Medicare card becomes lost, stolen, or damaged, visit www.socialsecurity.gov to get a replacement. You will be asked to provide some personal information, including your social security number, date of birth, phone number, and full name. To protect you from fraud, Medicare card replacements must be mailed to the last mailing address on record with Social Security, so be sure to keep your information up-to-date.
You can also go to your local Social Security Administration office. However, you’ll need to be prepared. Bring your Social Security card (original), your driver’s license, and/or a current passport.
How and when to use your Medicare Card
In order to process a claim for medical services or products, all providers you use need to see your Medicare card. That means you need to take it with you to the doctor, pharmacy, lab, and to your provider of durable medical goods. Even if you have to pay for the full amount of a visit because you have not yet reached your deductible, you still need to show them your card. It’s the only way they can process a claim so that you get credit for the amount spent.
We all know that Medicare fraud is a rampant problem. So, it goes without saying that it’s not a good idea to share your Medicare card or your Medicare claim number with anyone except your trusted health care provider. If you’re married, your spouse will have their own card. They cannot use yours.
Need to talk to Medicare.gov? Have your Medicare card handy, because they will ask you for your ID number before answering any questions.
It’s your responsibility to protect your Medicare card. Always keep it in a safe place. If you suspect that your Medicare car identification number has been used for fraud, report it to Medicare.gov.