Before applying for any supplemental Medicare coverage, you must be enrolled in Parts A and B. Some individuals will automatically enroll in both parts of Medicare, while others will need to apply. Do you know which category you’ll fall into? Let’s review the enrollment process to find out if you’ll need to sign up for Medicare on your own.
Who gets enrolled in Medicare automatically?
If you are receiving retirement benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board, your enrollment into Medicare Part A and B will be automatic. You will not need to submit any paperwork to enroll. Your Medicare ID card will be mailed, and you’ll receive it approximately three months before your birthday.
Your coverage will begin on the first day of the month of your 65th birthday. For example, if your 65th birthday is on March 24, your effective date will be March 1. However, if your birthday is on the first day of any month, your effective date will be the month prior. For example, if your birthday is on March 1, your effective date will be February 1.
What if I want to delay my Medicare enrollment?
If you are receiving retirement benefits but want to delay your Medicare coverage, you must request that. This is often the case for Medicare beneficiaries who continue to work past age 65. Most individuals choose to proceed with Medicare Part A since it is typically premium-free. (You or your spouse must have paid Medicare taxes for a total of 40 quarters to receive premium-free Part A.)
Part B, however, does have a monthly premium. If you or your spouse are employed and have creditable group health insurance through that employer, you may want to delay Part B. This is especially true if the employer subsidizes the plan and your portion of the premiums is low or nonexistent. There is typically no reason to have both employer coverage and Part B since the two provide similar benefits.
Before you decide to opt-out of Part B, make sure that the health coverage you have is “creditable.” If you work for a company with 20 or more employers, your plan is creditable. If you work for a smaller company, you should check with your HR or benefits manager to find out. It is important to know if your plan is creditable because if it’s not, you’ll have a penalty for delaying Medicare Part B.
How do I enroll in Medicare Parts A and B?
If you need to enroll in Parts A or B manually, the process is relatively simple. There are three ways you can choose to complete your enrollment.
- Apply online through SSA.gov.
- Schedule a phone or in-person appointment with your local Social Security office.
- Call the Social Security Administration directly: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY call 1-800-325-0778)
If you are computer-savvy, enrolling online is convenient and also gives you the ability to track your application status. You’ll need to establish a “my Social Security” account, which will require that you have a few personal documents available. SSA has provided a complete checklist of the information you’ll need to create your account and apply online.
If you have to manually enroll in Part B because you delayed coverage with other insurance in place, you will qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) when that coverage ends. The SSA will require additional forms to verify that you had creditable coverage.
You should start this process before your group plan ends to make sure there is no lapse in coverage. When you fill out your application, it will ask when you want your Part B effective date. SSA will not back-date your effective date, so be sure to apply early. The earliest your effective date can be is the month following your application.
What do I do after I enroll in Medicare?
Once you’ve started the application process, you should contact a licensed insurance agent to discuss your options for supplemental coverage. Individuals choose to enroll in either a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare supplement plan. You will also need to choose a Part D prescription drug plan, even if you arent’ taking any medications. As with Part B, you will be penalized for not enrolling in a Part D plan as soon as you are eligible.
Working with an independent Medicare advisor makes choosing additional Medicare coverage easy. They will educate you on your options and then help you choose the plans that make sense for you. If you have questions about your Part B enrollment or are ready to discuss supplemental coverage, give our office a call today.