Updated & Revised:
What I will share with you on the rest of this page will give you, in great detail, the five (5) different ways you can file out and file your Medicare application forms. Four requiring your sleeves rolled up and some elbow grease, and the fifth, alternative option, will seem almost effortless, with little to no effort required.
( If you are looking for individual instructions for signing up for Medicare Part A click HERE )
( If you are looking for individual instructions for signing up for Medicare Part B click HERE )
OPTION 1: STRESSED SENDING BY SNAIL MAIL
The most time consuming and tedious of choices, you can still send your Medicare application by mail, but it comes with significant stress and struggle.
You will need to request hardcopy, printed Medicare application paperwork to fill out by hand and file with the Social Security Central Processing Facility, sent by paid postage out of your pocket.
When (if) received, Central Processing personnel will qualify the quality and accuracy of your application. If found to be correct and complete, without errors and without missing incomplete or inaccurate information, your forms will be forwarded to the smaller Social Security office assigned to your file based by your zip code for processing and activation approval.
This process typically takes more than 3 months to go through from start to finish before you have confirmation of Medicare coverage. Clearly, an excellent example of government efficiency.
The biggest challenge with this choice is if an error is found, or something incomplete or inaccurate is in question, they send all your Medicare forms back to you by snail mail, just like how you sent it to them (with an instruction sheet on what to fix and how).
By the time you’re done playing all this back-and-forth ping-pong, your Medicare may not start on the day you want or need.
OPTION 2: FRUSTRATED WITH PHONE ROBOTS
A seemingly smart solution to save you from all the snail mail stress and struggle, but a failed attempt. Most humans tend to get frustrated trying to talk with phone robots and feel like they are getting nowhere.
If you’d prefer not to fill out your forms by hand, a Medicare phone application is available. When first introduced, the idea was for you to call the National Social Security Call Center within your Initial Enrollment Period pre-65, push in your zip code and be instantly connected to a courteous federal employee who would complete your Medicare application correctly right then and there.
In reality, the government over-promised and under-delivered. Social Security has been understaffed, and continues to be post-pandemic, unable to handle the call volume with 10,000 baby boomers projected to be turning 65 every day presumably past the year 2030.
If you do decide to call, be prepared to probably be on hold for hours at a time. They do not allow you to apply over the phone on that first call. Your first call is to request a “phone interview,” which is when they will go through the forms with your over the phone. It is a prescheduled and preset time that they call you --- usually early. You miss the call; they don’t try twice. You have to call back, start all over, and reschedule a new phone interview.
Currently, phone interviews are being scheduled 13-17 weeks in advance, so you need to time it right and place your initial call almost 6 months pre-65, so you can schedule your phone interview inside your Initial Enrollment Period to avoid delays, gaps, or lapses in coverage.
OPTION 3: AGGRAVATED BY APPOINTMENT
Previous to the chaotic circus that COVID created, you used to be able to walk right into any Social Security office and get help. Immediately. That very day. It wasn’t the most speedy or exciting experience, much like the DMV, but you got your number, waited your turn, and got done what you went there to do.
Similar to the phone robot fiasco, many Federal employees are still allowed to work remotely, enjoying taxpayer funded half days with full pay, and little to no accountability or activity monitoring.
This “new normal” has also affected the ability of the Social Security offices to staff appropriately to accommodate those who wish, want, and probably prefer, to walk in and speak with someone about applying for Medicare, Social Security supplemental income, or both.
To my recent requests, both the Buffalo Social Security offices and West Seneca Social Security offices have limited, to no, walk-in hours available. If truly your preference and priority, you are allowed to call the National Call Center and rather than request a “phone interview,” you can request an in-person appointment. The location you will be assigned is based on your zip code, and appointment availability is based on the staffing situation of the day.
Similar to scheduling phone interviews, in-person appointments have a long and lengthy delay in availability and access, with most recent reports showing 14-20 weeks depending on limitations of location.
OPTION 4: CHALLENGED USING THE COMPUTER
For those who feel comfortable and capable with computers, this might be your best option. But, before you get excited, things aren’t always what they seem. Let me explain...
Prior to 2022, Medicare and Social Security both offered and operated their own individual secure websites: medicare.gov and ssa.gov. Each site required a unique username and password to create an access account. The two sites did not talk to one another.
In 2022, a new government sponsored site was released under the domain name login.gov. It promised to provide a “single secure sign on with private account access to participating government agencies.” Sounds good but causing more new problems than fixing old ones.
Two things to consider:
The first, (1) if you have already created a username and password on either of the legacy sites (medicare.gov or ssa.gov), you will not be able to create new account access using login.gov. You can try, but when you type in your social security number during the two-step identity verification, it will give you an error message that your social security number is already linked to another account.
The second, (2) is the security settings on your home or personal computer likely do not meet the government minimum requirements. (I actually had to get special software installed to use the login.gov site so we could take care of this step for Medicare SmartStart Program participants).
If the new login.gov site does work for you without a hitch or hiccup, excellent! The great thing about the online Medicare application is there is literally no way to do anything wrong. It does not let you move forward unless everything is complete and correct. And you get a real-time receipt of submission and controlled confirmation number.
The only problem is I’ve never had anyone call me to confirm they were able to use the new login.gov site successfully. Maybe you’ll have better luck and be the first?
OPTION 5: DELIGHTFULLY DONE-FOR-YOU
We’ve come to a fork in the road.
Some readers will still follow the old, outdated, traditional ways of years past. Which you now definitively know are all just different ways of doing the same thing. And if you’re like most readers who have gotten to this point, you’re probably at the place of feeling like everything I just explained seems to be unhelpful and useless.
After telling and teaching you about you limited and lacking options, you might be thinking there just doesn’t seem to be any real, reliable resources when it comes to signing up and starting Medicare. And I agree.
Now, imagine if you could wave a magic wand and instantly take away the stress of trying to tackle Medicare on your own...
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Now is the time to join the other 850+ WNY’ers who have seen success relying on my simple and straight-forward, step-by-step process which holds you by the hand from start to finish so you never have to deal with anything about Medicare directly on your own.
Ok, there’s a lot to deal with, right? I get it.
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NEARING AGE 6 AND AREN'T SURE WHERE TO START?
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If you are TURNING 65 IN 1-4 MONTHS
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HAVE MORE MEDICARE QUESTIONS?
Read the most common questions folks in WNY ask when they aren’t sure how to get started with Medicare. Click HERE
to see the complete Medicare SmartStart Answers article archive.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew L Hibbard is a prominent name when mentioning Medicare in WNY, but one you may have never heard of. Working behind-the-scenes, he is a best-selling author, expert advisor and successful agency owner. Focused on educating first, Andrew prides himself on being considered “the only advocate in WNY fighting for better and more reliable Medicare resources, free from insurance company conflict of interests.”
To take away the stress of trying to tackle Medicare alone and feeling forced to figure it all out by yourself --- Andrew created the WNY Medicare SmartStart Program; a free, step-by-step plan, that holds you by the hand to sign up and start Medicare smartly. (More than 850+ people have gone through the program and call it “the lazy way to get Medicare done for you without costing you a dime”).
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