How to Apply for Medicare

Sherrie Johnson Sherrie became a professional writer in 2014. An expert in all things Medicare, you can find her work across a number of publications. When she’s not writing, you can find her fixing up her farm in Kentucky where she lives with her husband.
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How to Apply for Medicare

If you or your spouse are turning 65, you need to know how to apply for Medicare. While it might seem like an overwhelming process, with the right information at your fingertips, you can make an educated and informed decision. Applying doesn’t need to be a headache. Read on to learn how you can apply and get the health coverage you need.

What is Medicare?

Medicare is the government’s health insurance program for all Americans aged 65 years and older.  There are four parts to the program known as Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D. It’s important to note that this program helps with the cost of health care, but it does not cover all medical expenses or help with long-term care.

What Do Medicare Plans Cover?

Here is a brief look at what Medicare covers.

PLAN COVERAGE PREMIUM
Part A
  • Inpatient hospital coverage
  • Might have premium
Part B
  • Outpatient care
  • Doctor visits
  • Lab tests
  • Home health services
  • Medical equipment
  • Will have premium +
  • Medicare pays 80%
  • You pay 20% of everything else
  • No cap or maximum
Part C
  • Inpatient hospital coverage
  • Outpatient care
  • Prescription drug coverage
  • Dental*
  • Vision*
  • Hearing*
  • Fitness* 
  • Will have premium
Part D
  • Drug Coverage
  • % deductible varies

* Not all Medicare Part C Plans cover these items.

Who is Eligible for Medicare?

Anyone 65 years or older and has begun collecting retirement benefits is eligible for Medicare. This is commonly referred to as “aging into Medicare.” You may also enroll if you are younger than 65 and:

  1. Have been receiving disability benefits for 24 months.
  2. Have end-stage renal disease.
  3. Have Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).

When Can You Enroll?

You can enroll in Medicare any time three months before your 65th birthday, the month you turn 65, and three months after your 65th birthday. 

For example, if your birthday is in May, you may enroll in the months of February, March, April, May, June, July, and August. This time period is known as your Initial Enrollment Period.

JAN FEB MAR APR *MAY* JUN JULY AUG SEPT OCT

If you missed your Initial Enrollment Period, you can apply during your Special Enrollment Period (read below if you still plan on working). If Special Enrollment does not apply to you and you missed your Initial Enrollment Period, you may apply for Medicare from January 1 to March 31. This time is known as General Enrollment Period.

If you want to make changes to an existing Medicare plan, you can do that during Open Enrollment from October 15 to December 7.

What if You’re Getting Employee Health Benefits?

If you receive health insurance through your employer, you can delay applying for Medicare Part B. Once your employment ends and you begin collecting retirement, you will be automatically enrolled in Part B plan as long as you signed up when applying for retirement benefits.

From the time your job ends, you have eight months to enroll in Medicare Part B. If your job ends in April, you will have May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December to apply for Part B. This is known as your Special Enrollment Period.

*APR* MAY JUN JUL AUG SEPT OCT NOV DEC JAN

Bottom Line: You do not have to apply for Medicare Part B as long as you are still working and decide to continue your employee health coverage. 

Do You Have to Apply for Medicare Part B?

Everyone who is 65 and older must sign up for Medicare Part A during your Initial Enrollment Period. Part B is optional. However, if you are not working and you do not sign up for Medicare Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period or Special Enrollment Period, you will be penalized. You will pay a late enrollment fee of 10% of your premium for each 12-month period you wait to sign up for Medicare Part B. 

If you sign up for Medicare Part A in 2020 but delay Part B plan until 2025 and there is no Special Enrollment, your premium fees could look like this:

2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025
Late Fee 0 10% + 10% + 10% + 10% + 10%
Part B Premium $100 $110 $120 $130 $140 $150

Keep in mind that the late fee is not a one-time fee; your fee price will be your new Part B premium for the life of your Medicare policy.

If you want to sign up for Part B later and you do not have Special Enrollment, you must wait until the General Enrollment Period which is from January 1 to March 31 every year. 

What about Part C and D Plans?

For the most coverage Medicare offers, Part C plans are available. You can purchase a Medicare Advantage plan, or Part C, through private insurance. This will come with a premium you are responsible to pay. All Part C plans include all items covered by Medicare Part A, B, and D. Some Part C plans also include dental, vision, hearing, and fitness. It’s important to shop around for the best Part C plan available. You can sign up for Part C during your Initial Enrollment Period or during the eight-month Special Enrollment Period after your employer health coverage ends.

Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs and will come with a premium. You should sign up for Medicare Part D during your enrollment period when you sign up for Part B. Waiting to sign up for Part D can incur 1% late fees for each year you wait.

What is Medicare Supplement?

A Medicare Supplement plan is known as Medigap. Medigap  is completely optional but incredibly important. They fill in the gaps that Original Medicare does not cover such as vision, dental, and extra medical fees not covered by Part A and Part B plans.  

The best time to enroll in Medigap is during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period. Your Medigap Open Enrollment period begins the first day of the month you turn 65 and continues for six months. If your birthday is in May, you have May, June, July, August, September, and October to sign up.

MAR APR *MAY* JUN JUL AUG SEPT OCT NOV DEC

During your Open Enrollment Period, you are guaranteed acceptance into a Medigap plan of your choice even if you have pre-existing conditions. You may sign up for a Medigap plan after the Open Enrollment  Period; however, insurance companies do have the option to ask health questions and may deny your application.

Sign Up for Medicare

Medicare ensures that you are covered in case of a medical need. Hospital fees, doctor fees, and prescription medications are expenses that can quickly eat up your hard-earned savings. You’ve paid into Medicare for years; now it’s time to gain the benefits of Medicare coverage. Medicare coverage will give you peace of mind, knowing your life and your savings are protected from major medical expenses. If you aren’t covered but you need a quote, get one today. Your future is worth a few minutes of your time. Apply online now!

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