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What You Should Know About Your Medicare Card

Once you have enrolled in the Medicare program, your red, white, and blue Medicare card should arrive in the mail about three months before your coverage begins. For U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents approaching their 65th birthday, enrollment in Medicare could be automatic. This happens if you receive Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits. In these cases, you are enrolled in Medicare Part A beginning on the first day of the month in which you turn 65, and your card should arrive three months prior to this.

You are also enrolled in Medicare Part B during the same time, but because you must pay a monthly premium for this insurance, you can opt out of this coverage. Your "Welcome to Medicare" packet contains the necessary information for doing this.

Your Medicare card includes your name, type of Medicare coverage you have, when your coverage begins, and your Medicare claim number.

If you were not automatically enrolled, your Medicare card will arrive within 30 days after you manually enroll.

If both you and your spouse receive Medicare benefits, your spouse will receive his or her own Medicare card. Remember, you and your spouse will have different Medicare claim numbers, so be careful not to mix the cards up.

Need to apply for a Medicare card?

If you are not automatically enrolled in Medicare, there are a few different ways you can join. Visit and click "Apply for Medicare" to get started. You may also call 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users call 1-877-486-2048), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

When you manually apply for Medicare coverage or make other updates (for example, if you were only automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A, but would like to add Medicare Part B), you will receive a replacement Medicare card that includes your changes. Your new Medicare card will arrive within 30 days. It will be mailed to the last address that the Social Security Administration has on file, so be sure to keep your address with Social Security up to date.

How to replace a lost, stolen, or damaged Medicare card

Report stolen Medicare cards immediately. If you lost your red, white, and blue Medicare card, or if it was damaged, you can order a replacement at

Be ready to provide information that can help identify you, such as:

  • The name as it appears on your Social Security card
  • Your Social Security number
  • Your birth date
  • Your phone number
  • Other security information like place of birth or mother's maiden name
  • The amount of your last Medicare payment, or the month and year you last received payment if you received benefits within the last year

Need a new card faster than the 30 day wait period? If you have a doctor's appointment and need your Medicare card right away, call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, from 7AM to 7PM (for Railroad Retirement Board, call 1-877-772-5772, TTY users 1-312-751-4701). Social Security should be able to mail you a letter showing proof of Medicare coverage in approximately ten days. If you need it even sooner than that, visit your local Social Security office in person to pick up a Proof-of-Coverage letter.

How to use your Medicare card

Your Medicare card is required whenever you go for health-care services, so always make sure you have it on you. Show your card upon arrival to ensure your claims are processed accurately. If you received a Medicare card replacement, make sure your doctor sees your updated card at your next office visit.

Do not give your Medicare card to anyone else to use. Treat it just like a credit card. Keep it safe and do not give out your number to anyone who isn't providing your health care.

When you need to call Medicare, have your card handy so you can provide your claim number when asked.

Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called "Part C" or "MA Plans," are offered by private companies approved by Medicare and provide Medicare Part A and Part B coverage. Medicare prescription drug coverage is insurance run by an insurance company or other private company approved by Medicare. A Medicare Supplement plan is a health insurance plan provided by a private company that fills in the "gaps" in original Medicare coverage.

Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed this information.

To learn about Medicare plans you may be eligible for, you can:

  • Contact the Medicare plan directly.
    • Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY users 1-877-486-2048; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Contact a licensed insurance agency such as PlanPrescriber's parent company, eHealth.
    • Call eHealth's licensed insurance agents at , TTY users 711. We are available . You may receive a messaging service on weekends and holidays from February 15 through September 30. Please leave a message and your call will be returned the next business day.
    • Or enter your zip code where requested on this page to see quote.
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