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When will I get my Medicare card?

You will receive your Medicare card in your Welcome to Medicare package. The timing is based on how you enrolled in Medicare.

If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits at least four months before your 65th birthday, you’re enrolled in Medicare automatically. You will receive your card in the mail three months before your Medicare coverage starts.

You can start using the card at the beginning of the month you turn 65, or if your birthday occurs on the first of the month, you can start using it at the beginning of the previous month. The start date for Part A and Part B will appear on the front of the card.

You’re enrolled automatically in parts A and B, except in Puerto Rico, where you’re enrolled automatically only in Part A. Your Medicare Part B premiums, $170.10 a month in 2022, will generally be deducted automatically from your Social Security benefits. High earners pay higher premiums.

If your spouse — or you — still work and you have health insurance from a company with 20 or more employees, you may not need Part B or its premiums yet. If you don’t want to keep Part B, check the box on the back of the Medicare card that says, “I do NOT want Part B (Medical Insurance),” sign the back of the card and send it back to Medicare. Medicare will send you a new card in a few weeks with Part A only.

Before mailing back the card, write down your Medicare number so you can still use Part A before the new card arrives. Be sure to sign up for Part B no later than eight months after losing the employer’s coverage to avoid a late-enrollment penalty.

If you haven’t started receiving Social Security benefits at 65, you will need to take steps to sign up for Medicare. When you complete the enrollment process, expect the card in the mail along with your Welcome to Medicare package about two weeks afterward. But for 2022, when your Medicare coverage takes effect will differ.

These days, most people delay filing for Social Security retirement benefits because their full retirement age is older than 65. But they are eligible for Medicare at age 65.

Signing up during your initial enrollment period, which begins three months before the month you turn 65 and lasts until three months afterward, is important if you have no insurance from a present employer and often a good idea if you’re eligible for premium-free Part A. If you enroll:

  • Before your birthday month, your coverage takes effect the beginning of the month you turn 65.
  • During your birthday month, your coverage begins the first day of the following month.
  • In the last three months of your initial enrollment period, coverage will be delayed two or three months.

Starting in 2023, if you sign up during the month you turn 65 or later, the coverage will take effect the month after you enroll.

You can delay enrolling in Medicare and getting your card if you or your spouse is still working, you have health insurance from that employer, and you want to continue it without adding on Part A so you can continue contributing to a health savings account (HSA). You may qualify for a special enrollment period to sign up later.

If you miss your initial enrollment period and don’t qualify for a special enrollment period, you will have to wait to sign up until the next general enrollment period Jan. 1 to March 31 annually. Coverage will begin the month after you enroll. But be aware: Depending on your circumstances, you may face a late enrollment penalty.

sample medicare card

What information is on my Medicare card?

Your red, white and blue Medicare card includes your Medicare number that your doctor, hospital and other providers need to submit claims to Medicare. The sturdy paper card also shows the date when your coverage begins for Medicare Part A hospital coverage that includes inpatient stays in a hospital or skilled nursing facility, some home health care, and hospice care and Part B medical coverage for doctor and outpatient services, diagnostic screenings, preventive care, and some medical equipment and transportation.

Until a few years ago, your Medicare number would have been the same as your Social Security number. But because of concerns about ID theft, Congress required the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to change everyone’s Medicare identifier from their Social Security number to an 11-character randomly assigned combination of numbers and letters.

All Medicare beneficiaries should have received a new card between April 2018 and April 2019 with their new number. After Jan. 1, 2020, you can no longer use the old card and number.

Are the new Medicare cards scam proof?

No, but that’s because criminals outside of health care settings will try to persuade you to divulge your new, tougher-to-figure-out Medicare number.

While reports of these scams were at a height during the switch to new Medicare numbers, you should still be aware of Medicare card scams. For example, in one common scam, ID thieves call to replace the paper card with a plastic chip card similar to a credit card, and they ask for your Medicare or Social Security number.

Medicare will not call to ask for your Social Security number. Nor will it charge a fee to issue you a new card, and Medicare does not offer chip cards or plastic cards. You can print an official copy of your card or order a new one from your online Medicare account.

Keep in mind

A Medicare card isn’t the only insurance card you will need. If you have original Medicare, you also will likely have at least two other medical insurance policies:

  • Or other coverage to fill the gaps of Medicare, such as cards from your employer group plan or retiree health insurance

The alternative to original Medicare, a private Medicare Advantage plan, requires you to sign up for Medicare parts A and B first. So you would receive a Medicare card and also a separate card from your Medicare Advantage plan.

Take the Medicare Advantage card to your appointments but keep your Medicare card where you can find it. It will be important if you decide to switch to original Medicare later.

Published August 10, 2022



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