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You may feel overwhelmed when you think about applying for Medicare, but it’s easier than you think. The Social Security office handles enrollment in Medicare Parts A and B. There are several ways you can apply: online, on the phone, or in person.
As you approach age 65, there are two different applications you need to file. One is for Social Security income benefits. That’s your monthly check. The other application is for Medicare Parts A and B. Even if you’re NOT enrolled in Social Security yet, if you are 65 and need medical insurance, you can enroll in Medicare.
If you already receive Social Security income benefits, or if you receive Railroad Retirement Board benefits, you are automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B when you turn 65. You should receive a Medicare card 1 to 2 months before your 65th birthday.
If you are not receiving Social Security income benefits, you will NOT be automatically enrolled. You need to submit a Medicare application.
You have a personal Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) for Medicare Parts A, B, and D which lasts for 7 months. It begins 3 months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn 65, and continues 3 months after your 65th birthday.
For example, if you were born in May, your IEP would begin in February and end in August.
During this 7 month period, there are no waiting periods for pre-existing conditions and no late penalties. Be aware, if you miss your IEP, you will have to answer health questions and may pay late fees for coverage.
It is essential you understand the best time for you to enroll in Medicare, especially if you are leaving your employer or your employer’s insurance coverage when you turn 65. You should coordinate the end of your group insurance and the beginning of Medicare coverage to avoid being without benefits.
If your Medicare insurance will be your primary medical coverage, enroll in Medicare during the 3 months before your birthday month. When you do, Medicare will begin on the first of the month you turn 65. If you enroll during your IEP, but after your birthday month, you benefits will start later.
You enroll in Part A: Your benefits start
There are situations when individuals have medical insurance from a current employer, retiree insurance, or other independent insurance, when it’s time to apply for Medicare. Medicare provides guidelines about how it pays for expenses.
If you work for a small employer, fewer than 20 employees, Medicare will be your primary medical coverage and you should always enroll in Parts A and B during the IEP.
If you work for an employer with 20 or more employees, Medicare will coordinate with your group insurance and will be the secondary policy.
You can save money if you delay enrolling in Part B because many group policies already have these benefits.
Late Enrollment Penalties
If you fail to enroll in Medicare Part A (if you have to pay for it), or Part B during your IEP, your premiums could increase as much as 10% for each 12-month period you waited to enroll. Keep in mind, if you incur a penalty for non-enrollment, you have to pay that penalty as long as you have Part B coverage.
Special Enrollment Period
If you did not sign up for Medicare during your IEP because you were covered by a group plan from your or your spouse’s employer, or a family member’s plan if you’re disabled, you may be able to sign up for Medicare during a Special Enrollment Period without incurring penalties.
A Special Enrollment Period is 1) anytime you still have coverage from a group health plan or 2) during the 8 months after your employment or your group health ends (whichever comes first)
How to Apply
Online: If you’re tech savvy and would like to avoid a trip to the Social Security office, visit www.ssa.gov.
By Phone: Contact Social Security at 800-772-1213. It does take a bit longer for the enrollment to be processed by phone.
In Person: Visit the social security website at www.ssa.gov for a location near you.