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Your red, white, and blue Medicare card is proof that you are enrolled in Original Medicare. It is the most important piece of identification you own as a Medicare beneficiary, and you will generally need your Medicare card in order to receive Medicare-covered services.
If you are already receiving retirement benefits: If you are already receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits, you should automatically receive your Medicare card in the mail about three months before you turn 65. If you qualify for Social Security benefits, you will automatically qualify for Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) as well. You will need to enroll in Medicare Part B (medical insurance) at the time that you apply for retirement benefits in order for Medicare coverage to begin when you turn 65.
To qualify for Medicare, you need to be an American citizen or legal permanent resident of at least five continuous years who is at least 65 years old, or who qualifies by disability (see below).
If you are receiving disability benefits: If you are currently receiving certain Social Security or RRB disability benefits, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare after 24 months of receiving disability. You should receive your Medicare card in the mail in the 25th month after you receive your first Social Security check.
For individuals with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare the same month that your disability benefits begin.
For individuals with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), you may manually enroll for Medicare Part A and/or Part B through Social Security any time before or after turning 65.
If you are almost 65 and not yet receiving retirement benefits: It is important to note that not all beneficiaries are automatically enrolled in Medicare. If you are not yet receiving retirement benefits, and close to turning 65, you will need to enroll in Medicare Part A and/or Medicare Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which begins three months before you turn 65 and lasts seven months. You can apply for Medicare Part A and/or Part B through Social Security (if you worked for a railroad, you need to apply through the Railroad Retirement Board). The start of your coverage will depend on which month you sign up during your IEP, and you should receive your Medicare card within 30 days of being approved.
You can manually enroll in Medicare Part A and/or Medicare Part B in the following ways:
If you have recently moved or need to replace a lost, stolen, or damaged Medicare card, read our article on how to request a replacement card. You will need to provide personal information such as your Social Security number, date of birth, phone number, and full name.
Any Medicare card replacements will be sent to the last mailing address on file, so be sure to always keep your mailing address up to date. Replacement Medicare cards will be mailed to your address in about 30 days.
If you need proof of Medicare coverage immediately to visit a doctor or for a prescription, visit your local Social Security office.
You need to bring your original Medicare card with you the first time you visit your doctor or health care provider. They will typically make a photocopy of your card for their own files.
Remember these important rules for handling your Medicare card:
If you think someone has used your Medicare card without your knowledge, contact your local authorities or the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338 (TTY users 1-877-486-2048).
Because Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) and Medicare prescription drug coverage(Medicare Part D) are available through private insurers, you will get a different card from the insurance company. This card will look different from the red, white, and blue Medicare card you received for your Original Medicare coverage. The card will include the name of the private insurer and possibly a logo indicating your plan type.
If your Medicare Advantage plan includes prescription drug coverage, you may have a single card for all your medical and prescription drug needs. You will only need to present your Medicare Advantage Plan ID card to your doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies; therefore it is a good idea to leave your Medicare card at home or in a safe place.
If you have both Original Medicare and Medicare Part D, you will have two separate identification cards, one for each type of coverage. Contact your private insurer if you have any questions about your identification card.
Would you like to take a look at some of the Medicare plans available in your area? Just enter your zip code in the box on this page to display a list and start comparing plans.
eHealth's Medicare website is operated by eHealthInsurance Services, Inc., a licensed health insurance agency doing business as eHealth. The purpose of this site is the solicitation of insurance. Contact may be made by an insurance agent/producer or insurance company. eHealth and Medicare supplement insurance plans are not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. government or the federal Medicare program. We offer plans from a number of insurance companies.