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Set up Social Security online account before applying for Medicare

Dear Toni: I am turning 65 in March, and I was surprised when Social Security told me to go online to sign up for Medicare. There is not a local Social Security office open that can help me with the online application process. The Social Security rep suggested that I need a “My Social Security Account” to begin the process.

I am concerned that if I go online, I will have to begin receiving my Social Security check. I do not want to begin my Social Security checks until I am 70.

Can you please explain in simple terms where to go online, so that I can enroll in Medicare the right way? I am working part time and do not have employer benefits. I desperately need to start Medicare benefits in March. — Carla from Arizona

Dear Carla: With budget problems, the Social Security Administration discovered how much payroll could be saved by having Americans enroll online. But starting a “My Social Security Account” online will not begin your Social Security checks.

People who are already receiving Social Security benefits at least 90 days before turning 65 will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B when they become eligible.

But for those who are not receiving Social Security benefits before age 65, Medicare has no idea that you are turning 65 and should be receiving your Medicare card with Parts A and/or B.

You mentioned that you are not receiving your Social Security check, not working full time with true company benefits, and that Social Security advised you to enroll online. The best time to enroll in Medicare is three months before turning 65 by visiting www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare.

When you begin the process of enrolling in Medicare, Social Security will ask if you have a have a “My Social Security Account.”

If you do have a “My Social Security Account,” have your username and password handy to fill in the Medicare application.

If you do not have a “My Social Security Account,” visit www.ssa.gov/myaccount to register yourself (and your spouse if you are married) for an account — several months (if possible) before applying for Medicare. That way, you should be able to enroll in Medicare during your seven-month initial enrollment period (three months before you turn 65, the month you turn 65, and three months after you turn 65).

Once your “My Social Security Account” is established, you will need the following the information you to submit to Medicare (www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare):

1) Name, Social Security number, gender, and date of birth.

2) Address, phone number, email address.

3) Citizenship information.

4) Responses to questions about your health benefits.

After you submit your Medicare application online, you can view your receipt, which explains what, if any, additional information may be needed.

You should then be able to view your benefit verification letter in your “My Social Security Account” to obtain your Medicare number and Parts A and B dates, or you can wait for your new Medicare card to arrive in the mail.

Toni King is an author and columnist on Medicare and health insurance issues. For a Medicare checkup, email info@tonisays.com or call 832-519-8664.

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