Getting Your Medicare Card

Receiving your Medicare card is proof that you have made it through the enrollment process and that you are ready to access your healthcare benefits. Your new red, white and blue card shows doctors, hospitals and other providers that you have health care coverage and are eligible to receive many types of inpatient and outpatient care. They list what kind of coverage you have — whether that be Part A for hospital insurance or Part B for medical insurance, and when your insurance benefits begin.

If you have just finished enrolling in Medicare, you may be wondering when your insurance card will arrive. Cards arrive on different timeframes depending how you enrolled for Medicare. Your card’s arrival will vary if you were already receiving retirement benefits, if you receive disability benefits, have specific health conditions or if you just signed up for Medicare nearing retirement age.

First Steps to Getting Your Medicare Card

You may be wondering if there is a starting place to getting your card — and there is. If you are unsure about getting a Medicare card, the first step is to confirm that you are enrolled in Medicare in the first place. You will want to ensure you meet these basic Medicare eligibility requirements:

1) You must be a United States citizen or permanent legal resident

2) You must have worked for at least 10 years or have a spouse who worked that length of time and paid taxes through your paycheck — this is how you contributed to the Social Security fund that covers many of your Medicare costs

3) If you have not paid into Social Security, you must have paid into Medicare payroll during your time of employment; this may be common for former government employees

4) You are age 65 or older

If you are not age 65, you may still qualify if:

  • You have been receiving Social Security disability benefits for 24 months
  • You receive a disability pension from the Railroad Retirement Board
  • You have Lou Gehrig’s disease or renal failure that can only be treated through dialysis or a transplant

If you meet these qualifications, you should qualify for Medicare benefits. You’ll need to enroll in Medicare (if you have not already done so) by visiting or calling a Social Security office near you. For more information on the starting the enrollment process, check out our page on Initial Enrollment Information (link) for Medicare.

How Your Medicare Card Will Arrive

If you have passed through the enrollment process and are ready to start using your benefits, it is just a matter of waiting on the mail! Your Medicare card will be mailed directly to you. For this reason, it is important to confirm your mailing address is correctly listed with Social Security. And, if you move at any time, be sure to update your address as soon as possible. In the future, you may need to request a new card, receive an updated card if you adjust your benefits or replace a missing or stolen Medicare card. Any replacement card you request will be mailed to your address on file, so keeping your contact information up-to-date will save you time in the long run.

When to Expect Your Medicare Card

Now that you know the basic steps of getting your card and how it will make its way to you, you might be wondering when it will show up in your mailbox. That all depends on how you became eligible.

If You Are Already Receiving Social Security Benefits

If you are already pulling Social Security benefits or Railroad Retirement Benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare at least three months before you turn 65. This means you will be signed up for Part A coverage (and will likely need to consider if you want to enroll in Part B coverage, which helps with the costs of doctor’s appointments, any medical supplies you may need, outpatient care and preventative health services. If you have been automatically enrolled and are close to retirement age, your Medicare card will arrive through the mail three months before your 65th birthday.

If You Are Receiving Disability Benefits

Individuals with disabilities who get help through Social Security disability benefits or Railroad Retirement Benefits are also automatically enrolled, but at a different time. If you have received disability benefits for at least 24 months, you’re eligible for Medicare. You will be automatically enrolled in Part A coverage when you reach this time, and will get your Medicare card in the 25th month. Because you’re automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A, you’ll need to consider if Part B coverage is something you want to add on (along with Medicare Part D for prescription medication benefits).  In certain instances, Medicare eligibility is granted earlier than the 24th month.

If You Have a Health Situation That Entitles You to Benefits

In many cases, people with serious health concerns such as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) or End-stage renal disease (ESRD) can qualify for Medicare benefits. If this is your situation, you will receive your Medicare card through the mail as well. Those with ESRD need to manually enroll in Medicare and a card will be sent out within 30 days. Those with ALS who receive disability benefits will be automatically enrolled in Medicare the same their disability benefits begin and a Medicare card would arrive through the mail within a month.

If You Are Not Automatically Enrolled

If none of the above scenarios fit your situation, you’ll likely need to enroll yourself in Medicare to receive your card. When your card arrives and when your benefits begin depends on when you sign up. As you approach 65, you will enter the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) (link to IEP page). This begins three months before age 65 and ends three months later, giving you just half a year to get enrolled. If you sign up for Medicare within the first three months of your Initial Enrollment Period, you will be ready to begin using benefits the month of your 65th birthday. Your card should arrive within 30 days of enrolling. If you wait until the month you turn 65 or later, you Medicare coverage will be delayed by one month for every month you waited, meaning your card will arrive around the same time benefits begin.

For example, if your birthday is in April, you can sign up for Medicare beginning in January. If you enroll early, your benefits will begin the month of your birthday and your Medicare card will arrive before then. But, if you wait until three months after your birthday — in this example, June — your Medicare coverage won’t kick in for three months. Your card won’t arrive until around this time.