In January of 2011, the first of 78 million baby boomers reached the age of 65. Between this point and the year 2030 more than 10,000 baby boomers will reach this milestone every single day. If you are approaching the age of 65, then it is time to begin thinking about Medicare and how to sign up for Medicare at age 65.
When you reach 65 you are automatically eligible to receive Medicare; however, if you put off your enrollment, you may face a number of penalties. This is why it is so important to act as quickly as possible.
Getting to Know the Options
There are several different options to consider when and how to sign up for Medicare at age 65. There are four primary parts of Medicare:
- Part A – This covers any time you have to spend in a hospital.
- Part B – This covers fees from doctors and physicians.
- Part C – This allows those receiving Medicare to receive their medical care from a number of different delivery options.
- Part D – Covers your prescription medication.
There is also Medigap policies, which offer you extra coverage when you enroll in Medicare Part A and B.
When to Enroll in Medicare
Enrollment in Medicare starts three months before your 65th birthday. It continues for a period of seven months, total. If you currently receive Social Security benefits, then you don’t have to do
anything to enroll. In fact, you will be automatically enrolled in Parts A and B of Medicare during the month you reach the age of 65. If you are not receiving benefits from Social Security, then you will have to sign up by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213. You can also sign up for this online. It is a good idea to do this as early as you can so that your coverage will begin when you reach your 65th birthday.
Work Related Insurance Coverage
If you are currently employed and have health insurance through your employment, you may not have to sign up for Medicare Part B immediately. You will have to ask your employer if their plan is the main insurer. If Medicare, instead of the work related plan is considered the primary insurer, then you will still have to sign up for Part B coverage. Even if you don’t plan to sign up for Part B right now, it is still a good idea to enroll in Part A. This can help to pay some of the fees that will not be covered by the group health plan.
If you are not covered by a union or employer health insurance plan, or if the plan is secondary to Medicare coverage, then it is important to sign up for Part B during the initial enrollment period.
- Important note: COBRA coverage will not count as health insurance for Medicare purposes.
If you fail to sign up for Part B during the initial enrollment period, then you are going to have to pay a penalty. In fact, the premium you are required to pay for this coverage will increase by 10 percent for every 12 month period that you could have had Part B coverage, but did not take advantage of it. Also, you will have to wait for the general enrollment plan to come around to enroll. In most cases, this period runs from January 1st to March 31st of each year.
What Does Medicare Cost?
After you learn how to sign up for Medicare at age 65, you may wonder what this will and will not cover in terms of fees and expenses. With the coverage exclusions, copayments and deductibles, Medicare will only pay for about half of all your medical costs. A large amount of the balance that is not covered by Medicare insurance can be taken care of by buying a Medigap insurance policy. These are provided by private insurers. In most cases, you can do a quick search online to find providers of these policies.
About Medicare Part C
Medicare Part C, which is also referred to as Medicare Advantage, is also available. You have to be enrolled in both Parts A and B to be eligible to join the Medicare Advantage Plan. This plan offers all of the coverage provided by Part A and B, as well as additional coverage such as a wellness or health program, dental, hearing and vision insurance.
About Medicare Part D
The last part of Medicare is Part D, which is prescription drug coverage. If you don’t sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers prescription drug coverage, then it is a good idea to sign up for this when signing up for Parts A and B. For each month that you delay your enrollment after your initial enrollment period, the Medicare Part D premium will increase by a minimum of one percent. If you have prescription drug coverage from a private insurer, you will be exempt from this penalty.
Getting Started with Medicare Coverage
After learning and how to sign up for Medicare at age 65 and getting the coverage you need, you should schedule your “Welcome to Medicare” exam. This is typically offered at no out-of-pocket cost to you. If you need assistance deciding what type of Medicare you should enroll in or with the actual application process, there are a number of resources available. For example, AARP offers quite a bit of information on Medicare, as well as The National Council on Aging and The Medicare Rights Center Medicare Interactive.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to Medicare coverage, there is no question that it can be confusing. Figuring out how to apply for Medicare is the first hurdle you have to overcome. The good news is, there are a number of resources out there to help you with this process. Be sure to sign up within your initial enrollment period to avoid any penalties that you may incur otherwise. If you are still confused about how to sign up for Medicare at age 65, please give us a call at (866) 260-9829.