How Can I Enroll In Medicare When All The Social Security Offices Are Closed Because Of The Coronavirus?

Is your 65th birthday around the corner? Are you retiring in the next month or two? If so and you will need Medicare coverage, how are you going to enroll?

In normal times, you could choose to visit your local Social Security office. Or, you might call Social Security at its main number ((800) 772-1213) and make a telephone appointment. However, these are not normal times. All the Social Security offices are closed because of the coronavirus national emergency. Social Security’s automatic system is telling those who call that the wait time is in excess of 55 minutes. One of my clients reported that she was disconnected after 90 minutes, without talking to anyone.

That leaves the third method as your best choice. Enroll online. According to Social Security, this can take less than 10 minutes with no forms to sign and usually no documentation to submit. Online enrollment is available only during designated hours, beginning at 5:00 AM six days a week (8:00 AM on Sunday) through at least 10:00 PM every day. Social Security will process your application and contact you if they need more information.


  • Online enrollment sounds like a great way to enroll; however, there are caveats.
  • You must enroll through a my SSA account. If you don’t have one, you will need to establish one.
  • If you have put a freeze on your credit, you won’t be able to establish an account until you thaw your credit.
  • Not everyone can apply online. Online enrollment is limited to those who are at least 64 years and nine months old and are not enrolled in Medicare or receiving Social Security benefits. That means, if you signed up for Social Security before age 65 or you’re over 65 and enrolled in Part A, you cannot use the online system.

Confirming identity

For those who don’t have a my Social Security account, there can be another big obstruction to online enrollment. During the process of setting up an account, Social Security will use the information to verify your identity against their records. In the case of discrepancies, the system will lock out the user for 24 hours.

What can create this problem? Based on what I have seen, the number one cause is failing to update Social Security about changes in name and address. Consider these recent examples.

  • A woman got a divorce and took back her maiden name. Social Security could not verify her name. 
  • A man moved five times in the last two years. His current address did not match the one in Social Security’s system. 

If unable to pass the verification process, you will need to call Social Security and, at the prompt, say “helpdesk.” If your call is answered, the agent will say that you need to submit original documents (no photocopies) to prove your identity. Discuss with the agent how to do that. 

If you’re under the enrollment gun, here are two tips. 

  • Get up early, call Social Security at (800) 772-1213 and be persistent. The website says to call between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM Monday through Friday. However, one woman on the west coast got up at 4:00 AM and finally connected with an agent 80 minutes later.
  • If you do not connect with an agent, consider sending a letter to the local Social Security office explaining the situation and your repeated attempts to contact by phone, and asking for guidance. Include a phone number and maybe Social Security might call.  

Plan ahead 

As with any situation, prevention is the best solution. Even though you may not be thinking about Medicare enrollment now, consider these actions so you’ll be set to go when it’s time. 

  • Establish a my SSA account, if you don’t have one. 
  • If you have an account, try logging in. You will need to enter your username and password. Social Security will send a security code by text message or email (your choice), which you would enter and transmit back. 
  • Notify Social Security about a change in your name and/or address.

Even if we weren’t dealing with the coronavirus, Medicare enrollment can be a scary process. It doesn’t have to be if you plan ahead and know what to do. 

Author: Diane Omdahl, Forbes-Contributor Retirement