There is no question that Medicare can be complicated. However, the best time to deal with this is when you turn 65. After all, the only way the government will automatically sign you up for these benefits is if you are currently drawing benefits from Social security.
There are some cases where you may want to wait to receive Social Security payments until you reach the age of 66, so you can ensure you receive the full payout each month. The fact is, though, may find you regret doing the same thing when it comes to signing up for Medicare. This is because there is a strict enrollment period that lasts for three months prior to your birthday and up to three months after your birthday. When you miss this, you are going to face penalties, unless you have active health insurance from your or your spouse’s job.
The first thing you should do is visit the Medicare.gov website, and look at the “Medicare and You” booklet. This can be downloaded online, or mailed to your home. The office that takes care of Medicare is also quite easy to reach over the phone at 1-800-MEDICARE. If there is a long wait time to speak to a representative, you can leave your phone number and have someone call you back.
Understanding the Lingo Related to Medicare Coverage
Unless you fully understand how the Medicare system is structured, you may not be able to make an educated decision regarding what you are buying. Some of the terms you are likely going to see when you sign up for Medicare turning 65 include the following:
- Part A: This covers inpatient hospital care, hospice services, skilled nursing home care, etc.
- Part B: This covers physician services, outpatient procedures, and preventive care.
- Part D: These are private insurance plans that cover the costs associated with prescription drugs.
- Medicare Advantage: This is an alternative to the traditional Medicare coverage. With this program, your private insurance plan fees are paid by the government to ensure coverage that is equivalent to Medicare is provided.
- Private Medigap Plans: This is supplement insurance coverage that is in addition to Medicare and works to help you cover a portion of your out-of-pocket costs.
Why Sign Up when You are Initially Eligible?
If you fail to sign up for Medicare when you are first eligible, then you may be in for a less than pleasant surprise. There are quite a few people who believe that Medicare coverage is free; however, this is not the case. There is an annual deductible for Part B coverage, as well as, monthly premiums for individuals.
For those who don’t bother to sign up for Medicare turning 65, or when their coverage from their job ends, will pay a penalty that will increase the premiums you pay for Part B and D coverage – for the remainder of your life. Each year you don’t sign up for Part B coverage after your 65th birthday, the monthly premium will increase by 10 percent. Also, if you miss the deadline by just a single month, this is considered a deal of a year.
Once you do sign up, there is also a waiting period for your coverage to begin. This means that you may have to go without any insurance coverage for a number of months, maybe even an entire year, simply for missing the deadline.
Don’t Assume Anything when it comes to Medicare Coverage
One of the biggest mistakes anyone can make when it comes to signing up for Medicare turning 65 is that your health coverage is going to remain the same at this point in your life. Many retiree plans will end and the coverage from some employers will no longer be valid. This is especially true if you or your spouse has employment with a company that has less than 20 employees.
You will also have to apply for Medicare at the age of 65 if you have COBRA coverage. This is the program that allows you the opportunity to buy health coverage from your employer if you are laid off. You will also have to apply for coverage if you are able to receive the Tricare coverage from the military.
- Special Note: You should not rely on advice about Medicare just from your close friends or spouse. You have to look at your own, personal medical needs, including your doctors, drugs, and hospitals.
Ask Plenty of Questions
When you are selecting a Medicare plan, you should call and confirm the different features it offers. This includes the out-of-pocket limits and premium required. It is quite rare, but sometimes the information that is online is not always accurate.
Also, if you call and ask plenty of questions, you may discover you are eligible for a number of discounts. This is especially true if you are choosing Medigap since there are different providers available.
Ask for Help
There are a number of other tools and people that may be able to help you figure out what to do when they sign up for Medicare turning 65. For example, the AARP has a number of tools and information about Medicare, as well as the Medicare Rights Center facts sheets. These can offer updated and accurate information that will help you make informed decisions about your health care coverage as you age.
Medicare coverage does not have to be confusing or stressful. The key is to make sure you begin the process three months before your 65th birthday. This includes how to apply for Medicare, special enrollment periods you may be eligible for and more. Being informed, asking questions and learning about the coverage you have access to will help you get the health care treatment you need when you need it.