Page Reviewed / Updated – September 24nd, 2021

Medicare health insurance is available for people who are aged 65 or over and some younger people who have qualifying disabilities. Seniors can apply for Medicare online, via phone or in-person and will need to provide their Social Security number and proof of their citizenship status, military service and earnings.

Applying for Medicare can be a confusing process, and some seniors worry about proving their eligibility, especially if they don’t have a birth certificate or other basic paperwork. There are several ways a person can prove their age and citizenship status, however, so it’s worth contacting Social Security to ask what forms they will accept.

Social Security May Request Birth Certificates and Tax Information

The application process for Medicare asks for several pieces of information, including:

  • Social Security number
  • Citizenship status
  • Date and place of birth
  • Information about marriages and divorces
  • Military service history
  • Past Social Security benefit claims

The Social Security office may ask for documents to confirm the information given in the claim, including:

  • An original birth certificate
  • U.S. passport or naturalization certificate
  • Military discharge papers
  • W-2 or self-employment tax information
  • Social Security statements

Not all claimants need to provide this information, but it’s a good idea to gather any paperwork that may be relevant before starting the claim process. Social Security may request the above documents when a person applies for original Medicare. Once the application for original Medicare has been approved, a senior can then enroll in Medicare Part C, Medicare Part D or Medigap. No further documentation should be needed to apply for those elements of Medicare.

Seniors Can Use Other Documents to Prove Their Eligibility

If a senior doesn’t have a record of their birth in the form of a birth certificate, another document such as a passport can be used. If they don’t have a passport, Social Security may accept immunization or other medical records, school records or state census records as proof of age.

Social Security requires applicants to submit original copies of their birth certificate (and Certificate of Citizenship/Naturalization Certificate, where applicable). The documents will be returned once they have been reviewed. Seniors can request a replacement copy of their birth certificate from the Vital Records Office. Replacement copies of naturalization or citizenship certificates can be requested by completing Form N-565 and sending it to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Medicare and Medicaid are two important plans that can help seniors offset the cost of medical support. Some states have other plans or Medicare-related waivers, such as the Home- and Community-Based Services Waiver, which can help seniors who require long-term care or additional support such as placement in an assisted living facility. Contact your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program for information about the programs and waivers in your area.

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