How to Sign Up for Medicare
So you’re turning 65? Congratulations!
It’s time to start taking advantage of your Medicare benefits. And just how do you do that?
First, here’s a quick overview of what Medicare offers:
Medicare has 4 parts; A, B, C, & D. Part A pays for hospitalization, and most eligible people do not pay premiums for Part A. Part B covers doctor fees, outpatient care, home health care, and preventive screenings for Cancer, Glaucoma, Diabetes, and other diseases. Part B has a monthly premium, which for most beneficiaries is $104.90 this year. Part C is Medicare managed care and Part D is prescription drug coverage. Both of these options are available through private insurance companies.
If you already get benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board(RRB), you will automatically be enrolled in Part A and Part B starting the first day of the month you turn 65. You’ll get your red, white, and blue Medicare card in the mail about three months before your 65th birthday. If you don’t want Part B, follow the instructions that come with the card, and send the card back. If you keep the card, you’ll keep Part B and pay your Part B premiums which will be deducted from your Social Security Check each month.
If you are not currently receiving Social Security or RRB benefits (because, for instance, you’re still working), you need to sign up for Part A and/or Part B. It’s easy to do. You can sign up by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or by calling your local Social Security Office. You can also apply online for Part A (if you don’t have to pay premiums) and Part B at www.socialsecurity.gov/medicare. The whole process can take less than 15 minutes for most people.
If you’re eligible for Part B when you turn 65, you have a seven-month window that begins three months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends three months after the month you turn 65. Sign up early! That way you’ll avoid any delay in getting your benefits. If you sign up during the first three months of your Initial Enrollment Period, in most cases your coverage starts the first day of your birth month. (If your birthday is on the first day of the month, your coverage starts on the first day of the month before.)
If you didn’t enroll in Part A and/or Part B when you were first eligible because you were working and covered under a group health insurance, you have a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). This means you can sign up any time while you or your spouse are working and you have employer or union group coverage. Or you can enroll during the eight-month period that begins after your employment ends or your group health coverage ends, whichever happens first. With part C Medicare Advantage plans you only have the 3 months prior to when your Part B starts. For example, if your Part B Medicare benefit starts on January 1 then you can enroll starting October 1.
Generally, you won’t pay the Late Enrollment Penalty if you sign up during your a Special Enrollment Period.
But here’s an important caveat: If you have COBRA coverage or a retiree health plan, you don’t have coverage based on current employment. You’re not eligible for a Special Enrollment Period when that coverage ends AND you may be subject to the Late Enrollment Penalty.
For more information about enrolling in Medicare, visit www.medicare.gov or my calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
I am a licensed insurance agent in Maine and I am happy to help explain this process and answer any of your questions. I can also help you review the many supplemental insurance plans available in your area and give you the advice that you should have to choose the right plan for you and your spouse. Call me anytime. My number is 207-370-0143 or send me a message using my contact page and I will respond by email or call you, which ever you prefer. Good luck and welcome to Medicare!