Medicare in California

Pamela Cannaday by Pamela Cannaday | Licensed since 2011
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This article was updated on: 09/16/2018

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If you’re shopping for Medicare in California, Medicare.com offers complimentary use of our plan comparison tool. With this tool, you can browse a list of Medicare plan options available in your county, compare prices, and review coverage in greater detail.

About Medicare in California

Medicare beneficiaries in California have a variety of plan options. They may choose from Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, or various Medicare Advantage plan options that are available through private insurance companies approved by Medicare.  Costs and coverage details may vary, and not every plan may be available in your part of California.

Types of Medicare coverage in California

Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, is available through the federal government. You will pay a monthly premium for Part B coverage, even if you choose to receive your benefits through a Medicare Advantage plan instead.

Medicare Advantage, Part C, is offered by private Medicare-approved insurance companies. Part C is required to provide the same coverage as Medicare Part A and Part B, although some Part C plans may include additional benefits, such as vision, dental, or hearing. There are several types of Medicare Advantage plans, although not every type will be available in every area.

Medicare Supplement insurance, or Medigap, plans are available to California residents looking to supplement Original Medicare by filling in “gaps” in the coverage. In most states, there are 10 Medigap policy options, all standardized and signified by a letter of the alphabet. All plans of the same letter offer the same benefits, regardless of where the policy is purchased.

Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans offer prescription drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries in California. These stand-alone plans work alongside your Medicare Part A and/or Part B coverage. Not every Medicare Part D plan may be available in each county.

Local resources for Medicare in California

  • Medicare Savings Programs in California: If your income falls below the government-established amount, you may qualify for help paying your Medicare Part A or Part B premiums. Other programs may be available to help you pay for some drug prescription costs if you qualify.
  • California State Health Insurance and Assistance Program (SHIP): SHIP is a federal grant program that provides funding to each state. The SHIP grant supports the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) in California. HICAP provides one-on-one counseling for Medicare beneficiaries in California to help educate them on Medicare plans, benefits, and prescription drug plans.

How to apply for Medicare in California

To qualify for Medicare, you must be either a United States citizen or a legal permanent resident of at least five continuous years.

You apply for Medicare in California the same as any state: through the Social Security Administration in person, on the phone, or online.

  • Visit the Social Security website.
  • Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, 7AM to 7PM.
  • If you worked for a railroad, call the Railroad Retirement Board at 1-877-772-5772 (TTY users call 312-751-4701), Monday through Friday, 9AM to 3:30PM.

You may be enrolled in the program automatically, either once you reach age 65 and are already receiving benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA) or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), or before age 65 if you are disabled and have received SSA disability benefits or certain disability benefits from the RRB for more than 24 months straight. You’re also automatically enrolled in Medicare if you have ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), effective the month that your disability benefits begin. If you have End-Stage Renal Disease, you might be eligible for Medicare, but you need to apply manually, using the contact information above.

Because you pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part B, you have the option of declining this coverage during your enrollment process. All of the necessary opt-out information is included in your “Welcome to Medicare” packet, which you will receive a few months before your Medicare eligibility date.  Please note that if you do refuse Part B coverage when you are first eligible, you may have to pay a late-enrollment penalty for as long as you have Medicare.

Would you like more information on Medicare plan options in California? I’m here to help. Learn more about me by clicking the View profile link below. You’ll see other links below that let you schedule a phone appointment or have me email you Medicare plan information for where you live in California. Want to compare plans on your own? Use the Compare Plans button on this page.

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Pamela Cannaday |
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