Take These Steps to Apply for Medicare
Enrollment in Medicare isn’t automatic for everyone. Knowing when you should apply and which plans you should consider will help you make the right choices. Health insurance becomes increasingly more important for you as you age, so understanding how Medicare works and how to apply for it is important.
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Know When Should You Apply for Medicare
First, it’s important to know when you should apply for Medicare. Your enrollment period begins three months before you turn 65-years old and continues or three months after you turn 65-years old. If you don’t already receive retirement benefits or didn’t opt to receive them when you turn 65-years old, then you’ll need to apply for Medicare during this seven-month period.
If you miss the Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare, you will have to wait for the general open enrollment period. This occurs from January 1 to March 31 every year. If you wait until general open enrollment, though, you may pay a penalty for waiting to enroll in Medicare.
Know if you are Eligible for Automatic Enrollment in Medicare
If you already get social security benefits or will receive them when you turn 65-years old, you are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B. If you receive disability, regardless of your age, you will receive Medicare benefits automatically once you are on disability for 24 months. If you have end-stage kidney disease or ALS, you don’t have to wait the 24-month period to get Medicare.
Determine if you Want Medicare Part B
Medicare Part A, or the hospitalization coverage, doesn’t have a premium. As long as you paid your Medicare taxes throughout your life, you get Medicare Part A for free. Most people take Medicare Part A even if they are working. It’s free and it can count as supplemental insurance to your employer’s insurance. This can reduce your out-of-pocket expenses when paying medical bills.
Medicare Part B, though, has premiums. This is the doctor coverage and many people delay it until they absolutely need it. Typically, those that are still working after age 65 delay the start of Medicare B if they have insurance from their employer. Some people still have insurance through their employer’s COBRA system too, even if they aren’t working. Both types of insurance qualify as ‘insurance coverage’ and will allow you to enroll in Medicare Part B without paying a late enrollment penalty once it ends.
Enroll in Medicare
If you won’t automatically receive Medicare because you didn’t accept your retirement benefits yet, you must go online and apply for Medicare. If you don’t want to apply online, you can also head to your local social security office or call social security at 1-800-772-1213.
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The Medicare Penalty
It’s important to understand the Medicare penalty should you delay your enrollment in Medicare Part A or Part B.
Medicare charges a 10% penalty on top of your regular Part B premium for every year that you don’t have Medicare, but are eligible to receive it. The only exception to the penalty rule is if you have credible health insurance from your employer because you are still working at age 65. This qualifies as insurance and will make you exempt from the late enrollment penalty should you decide to enroll in Medicare in the future.
Buying Medicare Supplements
If you want prescription drug coverage, you’ll need Medicare Part D. You get Part D coverage from an independent insurance agent that is authorized to sell Medicare Part D. You can enroll in a prescription drug plan at the same time that you enroll in Medicare Part A or Part B. If you miss your seven-month window, you can enroll in Part D during its open enrollment period of October 15 to December 7 each year.
Like Medicare Part B, there is a late enrollment penalty if you don’t get a Medicare Part D plan right away and choose a plan later. Even if you don’t take prescription drugs now, it pays to take an inexpensive drug plan now to avoid the higher premiums for the rest of your life from the late enrollment penalty.
Signing up for Medicare takes time, but it’s not complicated. Following the steps above, you can get your plan in motion as soon as three months before your 65th birthday. This ensures that you will have coverage as soon as you hit 65-years old.
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