We have been telling people how quick and easy it is to apply for Medicare benefits online — even if you're not ready to apply for retirement benefits.

We have been telling people how quick and easy it is to apply for Medicare benefits online — even if you’re not ready to apply for retirement benefits.

Perhaps, though, the best advocates we have for the online Medicare application are the people who are using the application and discovering that oftentimes, it really does take less than 15 minutes to file for retirement online. Just ask Saundra Gibbs of Little Rock.

Gibbs visited the Little Rock Social Security office to file her Medicare claim just as friends told her to do three months prior to her 65th birthday. She thought it would be convenient to drop by the office since she was meeting her daughter and granddaughter downtown for lunch. However, upon her arrival she found herself waiting in line.

“I took my ticket and went over and sat down. Then I asked how long the wait would be. He told me probably 30 minutes or so.”

Gibbs feared that she would be late for lunch with her family, and she became curious about the words printed on the bottom of her ticket that read: You can also complete much of your business over the Internet at www.socialsecurity.gov. “I thought; why not try it on my smart phone?” Even with having to enlarge screens due to using her phone, Gibbs finished her Medicare application in about 10-15 minutes.

“I pushed submit and then my number was called.”

Gibbs decided to proceed to the available window and was impressed to find that her application was already available for the claims representative to see.

“It was wonderful! It didn’t take me any time at all. It was very easy, painless. I knew the answers to all the questions, which was surprising. It didn’t take any time at all! And I would highly recommend it. That way you don’t have to park and get out, especially in the cold or in the heat, walk in the office and stand in line.”

Even if you decide to wait until after you are age 65 to apply for retirement benefits, most people should apply for Medicare coverage at age 65. If you would like to begin your Medicare coverage, you should apply within four months of reaching age 65.

It is important to note that people who already receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits do not need to apply for Medicare; they will be automatically enrolled.

If you are within four months of age 65 or older, you can apply right now. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov and select the “Medicare” link in the middle of the page.

Go online to apply for Medicare benefits, even if you are not ready to retire. It takes less than 15 minutes.

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Phylis Dills is a Social Security public affairs specialist at Little Rock.