How to Sign Up for Medicare
Olds that are nearing their 65th birthday have a few choices when it comes to enrolling for Medicare coverage. It’s important for older adults to be proactive and understand their choices regarding health coverage.
In this article, we will cover:
- How to Sign Up for Medicare Using Social Security
- When to Apply for Medicare:
- The Initial Enrollment Period
- The General Enrollment Period
- The Special Enrollment Period
- The Open Enrollment Period
- How to Best Ensure Complete Medicare Coverage
How to Sign Up for Medicare Using Social Security
Older adults registered for social security are automatically enrolled for Medicare when they turn 65. If an individual is over 65 (or turning 65 within the next 3 months) and is not getting social security benefits, they have to register and sign up for Medicare Part A (hospital coverage) and Medicare Part B (medical coverage). Adults without social security do not get automatic Medicare benefits.
Medicare typically sends automatically enrolled beneficiaries a “Welcome to Medicare” packet 3 months before their 65th birthday (which is sent from the Social Security Administration). There are other deadlines and processes to complete, however, and suitable action needs to be taken according to the instructions found within the packet.
Individuals receiving benefits from the Railroad Retirement system are also automatically enrolled for both Part A and Part B of Medicare coverage. The Medicare card and welcome packet will be sent by the Railway Retirement Board.
Potential Medicare beneficiaries can sign up for social security through these simple steps:
- Apply online on the official Social Security website.
- Call the official Social Security helpline at 1-800-772-1213
- Locate and visit the nearest Social Security office in person.
The online application typically takes 10 minutes to complete. If you are planning on taking a trip to visit a Social Security office in person to file for social security, it would be prudent to book an appointment in advance. It’s important to pay attention to enrollment deadlines to avoid unnecessary delays and any potential penalties.
It’s beneficial for older adults who are not covered by Social Security to immediately apply for Part A (3 months before their 65th birthday) Medicare coverage, even if they are already covered by a group healthcare plan. It’s also crucial to examine the exact benefits Part B Medicare offers and match them to personal requirements to determine its relevance. Part B coverage requires beneficiaries to pay a monthly premium and might not be required in some cases.
However, making an early decision regarding Part B Medicare enrollment can be more cost effective, as enrolling down the line will cost beneficiaries more. Part A beneficiaries have to add Part B to their coverage either through their employment channel or at the end of their group health coverage.
When to Apply for Medicare?
There are specific timelines to apply for Medicare coverage. All timelines have separate rules regarding applications and when the coverage begins for applicants.
The General Enrollment Period
For individuals who did not automatically qualify for Medicare, or did not sign up for coverage themselves, Medicare has an open enrollment period every year starting January 1st to March 31st. Applicants who apply for Medicare coverage during this period can begin enjoying benefits starting July 1st of the same year. Applicants have to apply for Part A and Part B coverage during this period.
The Initial Enrollment Period
The initial enrollment period is the first time older adults can sign up for Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D Medicare coverage. This includes:
- The 3-month period before their 65th birthday.
- The month of their 65th birthday.
- The 3-month period following their 65th birthday.
This 7-month enrollment period (3 months + 1 month + 3 months) is the initial period. Healthcare coverage begins no sooner than the birth month of the individual.
The start date of Part B coverage depends on which month the individual enrolled for Medicare Part A during the initial enrollment period. The later the enrollment date, the later Part B coverage will begin. This can even result in delays and a lapse of coverage for several months..
The Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage has similar rules concerning start dates and enrollment periods. Part D coverage typically starts on the 1st day of the month following initial enrollment.
The Special Enrollment Period
The special enrollment period is when a potential beneficiary (who is already 65 years old) delays enrollment in Part A, Part B, Part C, and/or Part D coverage. This period is available based on a special case-by-case basis and is only available due to special circumstances.
An older adult who turns 65 while working for an employer with more than 20 employees can delay enrollment. These individuals are typically covered by employer or union coverage. Some individuals might even be covered by their spouse’s job.
The Special Enrollment period for delaying Part A and/or Part B coverage can be leveraged when:
- The individual is currently covered by employer or union coverage or their spouse’s current employment.
- During the 8-month period following the month the employer/union health coverage plan ends OR the month the employment ends (whichever comes first).
The Open Enrollment Period
Individuals who miss both the Initial and Special Enrollment periods get another chance to apply for coverage during this period. The Open Enrollment Period is also called the ‘Annual Election Period’ or ‘Annual Coordinated Enrolment Period”. This period typically runs from each year from October 15th to December 7th. Part A and Part B beneficiaries can choose to switch to Part C during this phase. Part C beneficiaries can switch back to Part A and Part B too. Additionally, Part D prescription drug coverage can also be picked up.
Open Enrollment also covers Medigap, or Medicare Supplement, which allows beneficiaries to enroll for additional plans in partnership with a private insurance broker based on their health care coverage needs and requirements.
How Do I Ensure I Have Enough Medicare Coverage??
Individuals can sign up for additional Part C, Part D, and custom-made Medigap plans as their budget permits. To get started, receive a free quote and get connected with a licensed Medicare Advantage, Supplement, or Part D carrier.
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