Summary: Medicare in California includes both the federal government’s Medicare, Part A and Part B, and additional Medicare plan options.

  • Medicare Advantage plans offer an alternative way to get Medicare Part A and Part B benefits. Most of these plans include prescription drug coverage. Some have extra benefits.
  • If you choose to remain with Medicare Part A and Part B, you may consider a stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Medicare Supplement plans can help you pay for out-of-pocket costs for services covered under Part A and Part B.

Medicare in California

Medicare Part A and Part B is the health insurance program from the federal government. It’s primarily for U.S. citizens and legal residents ages 65 and older. People under the age of 65 with qualifying disabilities may also receive Medicare benefits.

  • Medicare Part A provides inpatient hospital care.
  • Medicare Part B covers doctor services, preventive exams, and durable medical equipment.
  • Medicare Part A and Part B generally does not cover prescription drugs.

Medicare is available in every state in the U.S., including California. You may be automatically enrolled in Medicare in California at age 65 if you are receiving retirement benefits through either:

  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) or
  • The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)

If you receive SSA disability benefits, or certain RRB disability benefits, for 24 months in a row, you can join Medicare before age 65.

If you aren’t automatically enrolled in Medicare in California, there are a few ways to sign up for Medicare.

  • Apply at your local SSA office.
  • Register online.
  • Enroll by phone: Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. TTY users call 1-800-325-0778. Monday through Friday, from 7AM to 7PM.
  • If you worked for a railroad, call the RRB at 1-877-772-5772. TTY users call 1-312-751-4701. Phone hours are from 9AM to 3:30PM.

You should receive your Medicare card in the mail about three months before coverage begins.

What if you’re not automatically enrolled in Medicare in California? You can sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period. This is the seven-month period around the time of your 65th birthday.

You can also enroll during the annual General Enrollment Period. This occurs from January 1 to March 31 each year. Medicare may charge you a late enrollment penalty if you didn’t sign up when you were first eligible. Medicare in California Plan Options

There are multiple plan options available for Medicare in California. These plan types are described in greater detail below. Pricing and availability may vary based on your location.

It’s usually optimal to join these plans during your Initial Enrollment Period. If you don’t join at that time, you can join during the Annual Election Period. This takes place from October 15 to December 7. You can join, switch, or drop a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D plan during this time.

Medicare Advantage in California

Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, offers an alternative way to receive your Medicare Part A and Part B benefits.

  • Private, Medicare-approved insurance companies offer these plans.
  • Many Medicare Advantage plans may also have other benefits. These may include routine dental, vision, hearing aids, and prescription drug coverage.

Some Medicare Advantage plans may have a monthly premium as low as zero dollars. You would still need to pay your Medicare Part B premium. You would also need to pay any copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance.

Plans for Medicare in California with prescription drug coverage

Medicare Part D is prescription drug coverage. Medicare Part A and Part B doesn’t cover most medications you take at home. So, you will need to enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan to get this benefit.

  • You can sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. This can work alongside your Medicare Part A and Part B coverage.
  • Another option to consider is a Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan. This is a Medicare Part C plan that offers prescription drug coverage.

You might want to compare all offerings in your area and make sure to choose a plan that covers your prescription drugs.

If you don’t sign up for prescription drug coverage when you’re first eligible for Medicare in California, you could face a late enrollment penalty if you want drug coverage later on.

Medicare Supplement (Medigap) insurance plans in California 

If you decide to stay with Medicare Part A and Part B, another option you may have is to sign up for a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) insurance plan to help pay for Medicare Part A and Part B out-of-pocket costs. Private insurance companies sell Medicare Supplement insurance plans.

Medicare in California Resources

There’s a lot to learn about Medicare. Here are resources for Medicare in California which you can contact with any questions you might have.

  • State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP): In California, this is also called the California Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP). Call the toll-free number, 1-800-434-0222, Monday through Friday 8AM to 5PM PT. Or visit the website.
  • National Institute on Aging Information Center: Call the toll-free number: 1-800-222-2225. TTY users call 1-800-222-4225. Phone hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30AM to 5PM ET. Or visit the website.

Learn more about how Medicare in California plans works:

Medicare Supplement insurance plans are not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. government or the federal Medicare program.

The product and service descriptions, if any, provided on these PlanPrescriber web pages are not intended to constitute offers to sell or solicitations in connection with any product or service. All products are not available in all areas and are subject to applicable laws, rules, and regulations.