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Getting and Replacing Your Medicare Card

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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.

When to expect your Medicare card

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.

Applying for a Medicare card

You can manually enroll in Medicare Part A and/or Medicare Part B in the following ways:

  • Online through the Social Security website.
  • By calling Social Security toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, from 7AM to 7PM. If you worked at a railroad, call the Railroad Retirement Board at 1-877-772-5772 (TTY users 1-312-751-4701), Monday through Friday, from 8AM to 3:30PM.
  • By visiting your local Social Security office.

Medicare card replacement

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.

Using your Medicare card

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:

  • Some doctors, labs, pharmacies, or other health care providers may require you to bring your Medicare card each time you receive a service. However for safety, you may wish to leave your Medicare card at home in a safe place at other times.
  • If you recently received an updated Medicare card or replacement, make sure your doctor has the updated card on file.
  • Never share your Medicare card or your Medicare ID number with anyone except your doctor or health care provider. If you are married, your spouse should have a separate Medicare card and number. Protect your Medicare card, and always keep it in a safe place.
  • Have your Medicare card handy whenever you call Medicare with questions.

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).

Medicare Part C and Medicare Part D cards

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.

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