Medicare enrollment for seniors who have lost their jobs is complicated now, because the Social Security offices have been closed since March 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic. People who are calling Social Security are facing up to two hour wait times, when the usual wait time before the pandemic was no more than 20 minutes.
Trying to apply for Medicare during these times has caused seniors a great amount of stress and anxiety. Older Americans who have lost their jobs due to businesses closing down face worries about gaps in coverage and late enrollment penalties — not to mention the worry brought on by COVID-19 and remaining safe from illness.
The Medicare Rights Center along with other organizations is urging Medicare to hold seniors harmless of any Medicare application problems during the coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, Medicare has introduced a special enrollment period where seniors who have lost their jobs can get coverage.
Applying for Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period
When you turn 65, you can use the online application to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B. The initial enrollment period lasts from three months before your 65th birthday, includes your birth month, and lasts three months after your 65th birthday. When you enroll online, you can choose whether you want Medicare Part B.
Special Enrollment Period during COVID-19
If it is not your initial enrollment period, there is a special enrollment period available for those who are 65 or older who lost their jobs during the pandemic. This enrollment period is also available to those whose spouses, or in some cases family members, lost their jobs. The application can be completed online. If you experience problems, call your local Social Security office. Write down to whom you spoke, the date and time of the conversation, and what was said so that you have a record of it.
To apply for Medicare Part B under the Special Enrollment Period for COVID-19, visit the Social Security Administration’s page here. You may also mail a paper application to your local Social Security Office or fax the application to 1-833-914-2016. If you mail your application, use certified mail so that you can be sure it was received.
If you choose to mail or fax your application, you will need to complete two forms:
- Application for Enrollment in Part B (CMS-40B)
- Request for Employment Information (CMS-L564)
- For this form, you can fill out Section B for your employer if they cannot. In addition, your employer does not have to sign the form. Include in your application evidence that you were working and had health coverage, such as health insurance cards, pay stubs, explanations of benefits, tax returns,or W-2s.
If you are having trouble getting through to Social Security or are having problems enrolling in Medicare, contact your Congressperson.