Most Americans become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65. What you need to do to get Medicare depends on whether you are receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits.

    • If you are 65 and receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B.

You do not need to contact anyone. You will receive a package in the mail three months before your 65th birthday with your new Medicare card and a letter explaining how Medicare works and that you have been automatically signed up for both Medicare Part A and Part B. If you are receiving Social Security retirement benefits, your package and card will come from Social Security. If you get Railroad Retirement benefits, your package and card will come from the Railroad Retirement Board.

The letter will also explain that your monthly Part B premium will be automatically deducted from your Social Security check or railroad retirement check beginning the month your coverage begins. You will be given the option to turn down Part B.

Do not turn down Medicare Part B unless you have employer insurance from your or your spouse’s current job. If you do not have employer insurance and you turn down Part B, you may have to pay a hefty premium penalty when you do sign up.

  • If you are 65, but are not receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you will need to actively enroll in Medicare. To actively enroll, contact your local social security office or your local Railroad Retirement Board field office.You may not be collecting Social Security retirement benefits if you are still working or if you were born in 1938 or later (the retirement age is higher for people born after 1938).