• Harry N. Stout

302- When Should You Sign Up for Medicare?


Today’s post is excerpted from an article from the contributing organization Medicare Advantage Plans and their team of writers. You can find the full article on their website.


Your 65th birthday marks the date when, after decades of working and paying into the Medicare system through taxes, the system finally starts paying you back with government health insurance. It pays to be on time with Medicare enrollment. If you sign up too late, you may get a penalty in the form of a higher monthly premium. Every 12 month-period you could have had Part B but didn’t, your monthly premium could increase by 10%, unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) by having creditable coverage, such as group health coverage through your current employer. You’ll have to keep paying this higher premium for as long as you have Medicare.


Signing Up for Medicare

Here’s what you need to know about how and when to sign up for Medicare:


If you start receiving Social Security or United States Railroad Retirement Benefits (RRB) at least four months before your 65th birthday, you’ll be enrolled automatically in Medicare Part A and Part B when you turn 65. You should get your Medicare card in the mail three months before your 65th birthday. Your coverage will begin the first day of the month you turn 65 unless your birthday is the first day of the month, in which case coverage begins the month before you turn 65. Your Medicare premiums will be deducted automatically from your Social Security payments.


If you aren’t receiving Social Security or RRB at least four months before your 65th birthday, you’ll need to sign up for Medicare yourself. Generally, you should do this during your individual enrollment period (IEP) to avoid paying a penalty premium.


Your IEP begins three months before the month you turn 65 and lasts for three months after your birthday month, giving you seven months total to enroll. For example, if your birthday is in September, your IEP will last from June 1 through December 31. Your Part A coverage can apply retroactively for up to six months before enrollment but not beyond the date you first became eligible for Medicare Part A.


If you don’t sign up during your IEP, you can enroll during the annual general enrollment period, which lasts from January 1 through March 31 of each year. Just be aware that when you enroll during general enrollment, your coverage doesn’t begin until July 1 of the year you enroll. You may also face higher premiums for Medicare Part B because of your late enrollment.


Some people can delay Medicare coverage after they turn 65. If you have group health plan coverage through your current employer or your spouse’s employer, you may be able to delay enrollment without paying a late enrollment penalty when you do sign up.

People with certain disabilities or conditions may be able to sign up for Medicare before turning 65. You’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B after you’ve received Social Security or RRB disability benefits for 24 months. You should receive your Medicare card in the mail three months before the 25th month of your disability benefits.


Whether you’re enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B automatically or sign up yourself, you can also decide to get a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) and or Medicare drug coverage (Part D). You can sign up for Parts C and D during your IEP or the open enrollment period from October 15 to December 7 each year. If you join a Medicare Advantage Plan that has drug coverage, you won’t need to sign up for a Part D prescription drug plan too.


How to Enroll

If you aren’t automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A, you can sign up online at SSA.gov or your local Social Security office, if it’s open. The online application process takes 10 minutes and usually doesn’t require any documentation or signatures. You’ll need to submit:

  • Your date and place of birth

  • Your Permanent Resident Card number if you’re not a U.S. citizen

  • Your Medicaid number and start and end dates

  • The start and end dates for your current health insurance through your or your spouse’s employer

To enroll in Part B through a SEP, you can apply online or mail a completed Application for Enrollment in Medicare – Part B form (CMS 40B) along with a Request for Employment Information form (CMS L564) and any required proof of employment to your local Social Security office. You can also fax these forms to (833) 914-2016. These forms are available on the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website, CMS.gov. Once you sign up, you’ll have to choose what parts of Medicare coverage you want.


Summary

Enrolling in Medicare coverage is one of the key steps in the retirement process. Like many government-mandated actions there are penalties for late sign-ups that can prove costly to you. Make enrolling in Medicare one of the early actions as you stop full-time work.

 

To learn more about Medicare and find in-depth guides and resources to help you make educated health care decisions, visit Medicare Advantage Plans.

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