After you enroll in Medicare, you will receive a “Welcome to Medicare” package in the mail
The “Welcome to Medicare” packet includes your Medicare ID card, as well as a letter and a booklet about Medicare options.
The “Welcome to Medicare” materials guide you through important decisions you need to make before the start date listed on your Medicare card.
Not everyone chooses to keep every birthday card that arrives in the mailbox, but this one card is a definite keeper.
Your Medicare card.
Once you sign up for Medicare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will send you a welcome package that includes your red, white and blue Medicare card. While this is the most important part of the package, it’s not the only thing included.
Here’s what you need to know about your special delivery and what you should do with it.
Find a local Medicare plan that fits your needs
The arrival of your “Welcome to Medicare” packet depends on your enrollment in Medicare. For most, enrollment in Medicare is automatic, but some need to apply through the Social Security Administration.
If you or your spouse paid taxes for at least 10 years of full-time employment or receive Social Security or Railroad Board benefits for at least four months before you turn 65 years old — then you should automatically receive your package about three months before your Medicare coverage starts. In that case, your coverage begins the first day of the month you turn 65 (unless your birthday is on the first, in which case coverage will begin on the first day of the month before your 65th birthday).
Enrollment through Social Security Administration
If you are not automatically enrolled and take action to enroll yourself, you should receive your Medicare packet about two weeks after you sign up.
Your first piece of mail from CMS will include a welcome letter, a booklet and your red white and blue Medicare card.
Want a sneak peek at what you will receive? Here’s a sample provided by Medicare.gov:
- The letter provides an overview of Medicare, explaining that if you take no action, Parts A and B of Medicare will begin for you on the date listed on your enclosed Medicare card (more on that in a moment).
- The included booklet, entitled “Get Ready for Medicare,” provides an overview of coverage — including a description of Part A and Part B.
- Everyone receives the same letter and booklet. The Medicare card is specific to you, featuring your start date for Parts A and B and your Medicare number.
Are you eligible for cost-saving Medicare subsidies?
The enclosed letter provides an overview of Medicare, explaining that Parts A and B of Medicare will begin for you on the date listed on your enclosed Medicare card if you take no action.
The booklet provides more details about the Medicare program and takes you through two “main decisions to make now (before Medicare starts).” We’ll look at them in a different order than the booklet:
Decision #1: Do I want to keep Part B?
If it makes sense not to keep Part B, you don’t have to decide other details about your coverage.
If you or your spouse are on a group plan and you want to compare your group plan and Part B, consider monthly premiums and coverage side-by-side to select the option that makes the most sense for your situation.
- If you decide you want to decline Part B, you will need to complete CMS Form 1763 and may want to reach out to the Social Security Administration to ensure you correctly do so.
Decision #2: What type of Medicare coverage do you want?
If you do decide to keep Part A and Part B, you have options for coverage:
- Do you stick with only Part A and Part B (Original Medicare)?
- Do you add some options to Original Medicare, e.g. Part D?
- Do you bundle your options and opt for a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C)?
A lot goes into this decision — and the booklet covers a lot of information — but GoHealth offers you even more comprehensive information. In addition to our online Medicare resources, GoHealth also offers you the obligation-free option of talking through your decision with a licensed insurance agent at no cost.
If you’ve already started paying Part B premiums, then the answer depends on the current calendar. Contacting GoHealth is an excellent place to start, especially if it’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) time.
During AEP — which runs from October 15 to December 7 each year — you can switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage. You also can add a Part D plan to Original Medicare during this period. Coverage begins on January 1.
While you should protect your Medicare card much like you would a credit card, accidents happen. If you can’t find yours, you must contact the Social Security Administration to get a replacement. Your request can be made online, on the phone or at your local Social Security office.