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How to Sign Up for Medicare

How to Sign Up for Medicare

When you are turning 65 or going on Medicare for the first time, there are many considerations and questions. But, one of the biggest questions is how to sign up for Medicare.

There are a several situations that can dictate how you go about getting Medicare started – already receiving Social Security and turning 65, not yet receiving Social Security and turning 65, and enrolling in Medicare after age 65.

ALREADY RECEIVING SOCIAL SECURITY AND TURNING 65

The most common situation for signing up for Medicare is those who are already receiving Social Security when turning 65. This situation is also the easiest as far as signing up for Medicare.

If you are already receiving Social Security, you should receive a red, white, and blue Medicare card and “Welcome to Medicare” kit about 2-3 months before the month that you turn 65. This is sent out automatically from CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) and does not require you to do anything.

As part of this kit, you will have a Medicare card showing that you are entitled to Part A and enrolled in Part B.

The effective dates on the card for Part A and Part B will show as the 1st day of the month that you turn 65. For example, if you turn 65 on July 10, your Part A and B start dates will be 7/1 of that year. The only exception to this occurs if your birthday falls on the 1st day of a month. In that case, your Medicare effective date will be the 1st day of the month preceding your birth month.

Now, if you are still working or just prefer not to “take” Part B at the time you turn 65, you have the option of declining it by following the instructions in your welcome kit. If you do so, you’ll receive a new Medicare card showing only a Part A effective date.

If, for some reason, you do not receive a Medicare card and welcome kit by 60 days in advance of when your coverage should be starting, you should contact a local Social Security office or call them at 800.772.1213.

NOT RECEIVING SOCIAL SECURITY

If you are not yet receiving Social Security (i.e. you are still working and covered through group insurance), you will have to proactively sign up for Parts A & B.

There are several options for signing up for Medicare if you are not receiving Social Security. To sign up, you can:

It is important to take action promptly if you want to receive Parts A & B but are not automatically enrolled. There are penalties associated with delaying enrollment if you do not have other creditable coverage.

So, if you want Part A and Part B, you should enroll prior to the month of your 65th birthday. You can take the above actions to enroll up to 3 months prior to the month that you turn 65.

ENROLLING IN MEDICARE AFTER AGE 65

If you are already over 65 and have not yet signed up for Medicare, there are different guidelines related to when and how you sign up for Medicare.

Often, if you are covered by group/employer insurance, it may make sense to delay enrollment into Part B. Then, when your group/employer insurance ends (i.e. you retire), you can sign up for Medicare at that time.

If you have done that and are now ready to sign up for Medicare, you can do that by:

You will be required to have your employer authorize that you have been covered through a credible group plan in order to exempt you from Medicare’s late enrollment penalties.

If you want your Medicare to start right when your group coverage ends (recommended), you should sign up for Medicare up to 60 days in advance of the end date of your current group plan. This will ensure no delays in paperwork and that your Medicare starts on the date that your group plan ends.

You can sign up for Part B without penalty any time you are currently employed/covered. You do have, however, eight months after your employment ends to sign up for Part B.

You may have COBRA coverage as an option when your group coverage ends. You can select to go that route, but that does not delay the clock on when the eight month period to sign up for Part B starts. In other words, COBRA is usually available for up to 18 months, but you should not wait until the full 18 months to sign up for Part B. You should still do it within 8 months of your employment end date in order to be exempt from the Medicare late enrollment penalties.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

  • If you are still working when you turn 65 and are covered by a group plan through your employer, you should contact your employer’s benefits office to find out how your plan will work with Medicare benefits. This will enable you to determine whether it makes sense to sign up right away – when you turn 65 – or to delay enrollment into Part B and sign up for it later when you no longer have group benefits.
  • If you wait longer than the 8 months after your employment ends to sign up for Part B, you may have to pay a penalty for however many months that you did not have Part B. Also, you may not be able to enroll in Part B until the annual period that runs January 1-March 31 with coverage not starting until July 1 of that year.
  • You can sign up for Part B without a penalty any time that you have employer coverage based on current employment (retiree coverage and COBRA coverage don’t count as current employer coverage).
  • If you drop Part B, you generally will not be able to re-enroll until the next General Enrollment Period, which runs January 1 to March 31, with coverage starting on July 1 of that year. And, you may be subject to a late enrollment penalty.
  • Once you sign up for Part B you will have six months to sign up for one of the Medicare supplement plans.  These plans fill the gaps left by standard Part A and Part B coverage.
  • You do not have to renew your coverage each year. But, you will have a chance to make changes to your Medicare or other types of supplemental or Part D plans annually.

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