For most people, turning 65 means you’re eligible for Original Medicare, Part A & Part B. This federal program provides hospital insurance and some medical insurance to older Americans and those under 65 with certain disabilities.
If Medicare seems confusing to you, that’s understandable. There are a lot of moving parts and new terminology.
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Read on to learn more about how to enroll in Medicare. Better yet, give us a call! We can enroll you in Medicare Parts A and B, and we can help you choose a Medicare Supplements vs Medicare Advantage plans to help with medical expenses that aren’t covered by Medicare Parts A and B.
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You may automatically get Medicare Part A & Part B benefits if you’re turning 65 and you are already getting retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration or the Railroad Retirement Board. If you’re under 65, you can enroll in Medicare Part A & Part B through Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board at the same time that you apply for retirement benefits.
If this is the case, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare when you turn 65, and you don’t need to submit another application. Your red, white, and blue Medicare card will be mailed to you three months before your 65th birthday, and your benefits will start on the first day of the month you turn 65. If your birthday is on the first of the month, then your benefits start on the first day of the previous month.
If you aren’t getting retirement benefits yet, you will need to sign up manually for Medicare Part A and/or Part B through Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board:
First-time Medicare beneficiaries have what is called an Initial Enrollment Period. This period starts three months prior to your 65th birthday, includes your birth month, and extends three months after your birth month. It’s important to enroll during this time. If you do not enroll during the Initial Enrollment Period, you may incur late fees or have to wait until the General Enrollment Period between January 1 to March 31 of the following year.
If you or your spouse are still working when you turn 65 and you have health insurance through this employer, you might consider delaying enrollment in Part B. You may not wish to pay the Part B premium if you don’t need the coverage. Before making a decision, contact your current employer’s benefits department to see if that coverage is sufficient and find out how it might work with Medicare Part B.
When your employer coverage ends, you are able to sign up for Medicare Part B without incurring a penalty during and eight-month Special Enrollment Period.
The Open Enrollment Period runs from November 1st through January 15th every year. If you enroll for coverage by December 15th, the policy will start on January 1st.
This period lasts from January 1st until March 31st each year. You can use this period to enroll in Medicare in case you didn’t sign up for it the first time you became eligible and if you don’t qualify for the Special Enrollment Period.
This is a time outside the yearly Open Enrollment Period when you can sign up for Medicare health insurance. You qualify for a Special Enrollment Period if certain life events trigger it such as losing health coverage, moving, getting married, having a baby, or if your household income is below a certain amount.
This period takes place every year from January 1st through March 31st and allows individuals enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan to make changes by either choosing another Medicare Advantage plan with or without prescription drug coverage or Original Medicare or by switching back to Medicare Original. During this time, you’ll also be able to enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan.
This period is active from October 15 to December 7 and allows you to make changes to your existing coverage.
It is advisable to have these enrollment periods in mind and try not to miss them because if you do, there is a possibility you may have to pay late enrollment penalties.
After you’ve enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, you can enhance the coverage with a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan and prescription drug coverage through a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. Or you could choose to get all your coverage in the form of a Medicare Advantage plan, with or without prescription drug benefits.
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