How many times have you heard that Medicare is “complicated” or “confusing”? It’s enough to make anyone dread dealing with it, right?
Well here are seven inside tips that just might help clear a path to Medicare enrollment for you.
Medicare tip 1: You can sign up for Medicare as early as 3 months before you turn 65
Medicare eligibility begins at age 65, but you can sign up earlier to make sure your coverage starts as soon as possible. You will have a 7-month Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) that starts 3 months before the month of your 65th birthday. If you sign up during the first three months of your IEP, your Medicare coverage will kick in on the first day of your 65th birthday month. If you sign up later on in your IEP your coverage could be delayed.
Medicare tip 2: Find out if you’ll be enrolled in Medicare automatically
If you currently receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare (Parts A & B). Medicare will mail your Medicare card to you. This applies if you are eligible for Medicare due to age or disability Your coverage will go into effect on the first day of your 65th birthday month or the month of your 25th disability check.
NOTE: You will still have your IEP during which you may make other coverage choices such as getting a Part D prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan.
Medicare tip 3: Consider delaying Medicare Part B
You may be able to postpone Part B – and delay paying the premium – if you have other creditable coverage. You might be working past 65 and have employer-sponsored health insurance with an employer that has 20 or more employees, for example. Or maybe you have employer-coverage from a spouse’s employer, and that employer has 20 or more employees and allows covered-dependents to delay Medicare enrollment.
Check with the plan benefits administrator before deciding to postpone your Part B enrollment. You need to confirm that you have creditable coverage, ask for written proof (especially for your drug coverage) to ensure you can qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.
Working past 65: When you may be able to delay Medicare
Medicare tip 4: Choose a Medicare plan with benefits you need
Once you sign up for both Part A and Part B, you have to consider if you need further coverage. Parts A and B only cover hospital and medical coverage, respectively. This means things like drugs and dental are not provided for.
- Part D plans can provide prescription drug coverage.
- Medicare Advantage plans can provide prescription drug coverage & additional benefits such as dental, vision or hearing coverage.
Identify what you need and want covered before selecting the kind of Medicare coverage you end up with.
Medicare tip 5: You can add additional coverage to government-sponsored Original Medicare
If you choose Original Medicare, you can add additional coverage. For example, many people add a Medicare Part D plan to help with prescription drug costs. These plans are offered by private insurance companies.
Medicare tip 6: Enroll on time to avoid late enrollment penalties
Medicare Part B and Part D may add penalties to your premium payments if you enroll after your IEP ends and don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. If you don’t qualify for premium-free Part A, you’ll also face late penalties for Part A if you miss your IEP. Each part has its own rules for timing and for calculating the penalty.
- The Part B penalty is an additional 10% of the premium amount for each full 12-month period you could have had Part B and didn’t. The penalty is charged every month for as long as you have Part B.
- The Part D penalty is an additional 1% of the average Part D premium for each month you delay enrollment. The penalty amount may change each year along with annual Part D premiums. It’s charged every month for as long as you’re enrolled in Part D.
- The Part A penalty is an additional 10% of the premium amount and is charged every month for twice the number of years enrollment was delayed.
Medicare tip 7: Evaluate your coverage every year
You don’t have to keep the same Medicare plan every year. The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period is October 15 to December 7 every year. During this time, you can join, switch or drop a Medicare Advantage plan or a prescription drug plan. It’s a good idea to review your Medicare coverage every year to make sure it still serves your needs.
You will automatically go back to Original Medicare if you drop a Medicare Advantage plan during open enrollment, and you will lose drug coverage if it was included with your plan. You may replace drug coverage with a stand-alone prescription drug plan at this time without penalty. A penalty may apply if you drop drug coverage and more than 63 days pass before you get it again.
Keep these tips in mind to make Medicare enrollment easier
It may feel like Medicare is a vast and overwhelming maze. Partly that’s because Medicare serves millions and millions of people, each with his or her own set of circumstances, and the program must anticipate and accommodate them all. Focus in on what applies to your personal situation and choosing your Medicare coverage will be a lot easier.
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