Email FacebookTwitterMenu burgerClose thin

Documents You Need to Apply for Medicare in 2024

A senior couple gathering the documents that they need to apply for Medicare.

Medicare enrollment starts with your application. You can typically initiate this process on the Social Security website or at your local Social Security office. And it requires the completion of certain forms. Applicants will have to provide information about their identity, employment history and health status. The process can typically span up to three months. Here’s a breakdown of the necessary documents to avoid additional delays.

If you need help planning your finances or saving for retirement, consider working with a financial advisor.

List of Documents You Need to Apply for Medicare

To apply for Medicare, especially for Parts A and B, having the necessary documents at hand is fundamental. Without the correct paperwork, you might encounter delays in the application process or, even worse, a denial of coverage. This could lead to a gap in health insurance coverage and potentially expose you to high medical costs.

For Medicare Part A, which primarily covers hospital insurance, including inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care and some home health care, the documents you will usually need include:

  • Proof of age (such as a birth certificate)
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency (like a passport or green card)
  • A record of your employment history (such as a W-2 form)
  • Marriage information
  • Military service history
  • Past Social Security benefit claims

Each document plays an important role in the application process. For instance, the birth certificate verifies your eligibility based on age, while the W-2 form helps determine if you’ve worked long enough under Medicare-covered employment to qualify for premium-free Part A.

When applying for Medicare Part B, which covers certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies and preventive services, required documents often include proof of age and citizenship or legal residency.

However, if you or your spouse is still working and you have health coverage through that employer, you’ll need to provide a document from the employer verifying this coverage. Examples of these documents could include a health insurance card with your name and the employer’s name on it, or a letter from the employer stating that you have health coverage through them.

Other Medicare Qualification Requirements

A senior couple getting approval for Medicare.

Beyond necessary documentation like proof of age, citizenship or legal residency and Social Security records, there are other fundamental requirements to qualify for Medicare. For instance, one must have been a U.S. resident for at least five continuous years. Here are some other potential requirements that you may need to be aware of:

  • Work credit requirements: Earning work credit for Medicare involves making contributions to the system. One must have at least 40 credits, equivalent to 10 years of work, paying into the system to qualify for premium-free Part A (hospital insurance). However, those who don’t meet this requirement can still get Part A by paying a monthly premium.
  • Age and medical condition: One major misconception about Medicare qualification is that it’s strictly age-based. While it’s true that individuals over 65 generally qualify, younger individuals may also be eligible if they have certain disabilities or diseases, such as end-stage renal disease (ESRD).

Another common myth is that once you qualify, you automatically receive all parts of Medicare (A, B, C, D). In reality, eligibility does not equate to automatic enrollment in all parts. Each part has a different enrollment process, and some, like Part B (Medical Insurance) and D (prescription drug coverage), require a monthly premium. 

How to Apply for Medicare

Applications for Medicare can be submitted online through the Social Security Administration’s website or in person at a local Social Security office. Required forms often include the application for enrollment in Medicare (Form CMS-40B) and, if needed, the application for enrollment in Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) (Form CMS-L564).

To enhance your comfort and ease during the application process, consider visiting the linked forms for a comprehensive understanding. Remember, deadlines can vary, and applying on time is essential to avoid late penalties, resulting in higher premiums or coverage gaps.

Bottom Line

A senior reviewing the documents that he needs to apply for Medicare.

 Whether applying for traditional Medicare or a private Medicare plan, completing the required documentation can significantly streamline the process and prevent delays, denials or financial burdens. Key documents often include proof of age, U.S. citizenship or lawful presence, employment history and health status. Additional requirements for private Medicare plans may include a detailed medical history and proof of original Medicare coverage.

Tips for Retirement Planning

  • A financial advisor can help you create the right plan for your long-term retirement goals. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • You can use a free retirement calculator to help you estimate how much money you might need to save for the retirement you want.

Photo credit: ©, ©, © Zavalishina