Turning 65 This Year? It’s Time to Sign Up for Medicare

February 2017

Are you or a relative turning 65 this year? If so, you might want to consider adding Medicare enrollment to your to-do list during the months surrounding that 65th birthday. If your plans, or your relatives plans, fit either of the following situations, you will need to enroll during the initial enrollment period (IEP):

  • You’ll be turning 65 this year, and you plan to apply to start receiving Social Security.
  • You’ll be turning 65 this year, but you plan to keep working and not apply for Social Security until you can receive full benefits at age 66 or at a later age up to 70.

The initial IEP is the seven months surrounding your 65th birthday (3 months before your birth month, 3 after). Enrolling after the initial period is an option, however that usually means that you will pay late enrollment penalties. Meaning, premiums for applicable parts of Medicare are typically a little higher, in most cases for as long as you are insured.

What Is Medicare?

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are age 65 or older. It is also available to younger people who have certain disabilities or permanent kidney failure (called End-Stage Renal Disease) that requires dialysis or a transplant. Here is some additional information on Medicare:

  • If you began receiving Social Security benefits between age 62 and 65, you will typically begin automatically receiving Medicare Part A and Part B on the first of the month you turn 65. Your Medicare card will arrive in the three months before your 65th birthday.
  • If you apply for Social Security at age 65, you will automatically get Medicare coverage for hospital insurance (Part A) and medical insurance (Part B). If you’ve paid Medicare payroll taxes for at least 10 years during your working life (and most workers have), then there is no charge for Part A. But there is a small monthly premium for Part B. Premiums for part B are usually deducted directly from your monthly Social Security Payment.
  • If you don’t plan to apply for Social Security until you are age 66 or older, then you will need to apply separately for Medicare coverage during the seven month period around the date you turn age 65. Although you could wait until later to apply for Medicare, late enrollment penalties mean you will pay more for Part B coverage and other coverage such as a Prescription Drug Plan unless special circumstances apply. You will directly pay premiums for Part B (and part D or an Advantage plan) until you apply for Social Security; Medicare will bill you.
  • If you don’t plan to retire until after age 66 and are still covered by your employer’s group health insurance, you don’t need to apply for Medicare until you retire and that group coverage ends. This situation has a special enrollment period (SEP) when you can enroll without incurring penalties. Read more on Medicare.gov. Unless you are already getting Social Security benefits, you will directly pay premiums for Part B (and Part D or an Advantage Plan).

Enrolling in Medicare:

  • The "initial enrollment period" is seven months long - 3 months before your turn 65, the month you turn 65, and the 3 months after your birthday.
  • You can easily enroll online at medicare.gov.
  • If you don't enroll during the "initial enrollment period," you can apply between January 1 and March 31 each year but you will usually have to pay a higher premium for late enrollment.
  • If you don’t enroll in Medicare during the initial enrollment period because you are still working and covered by your employer’s group health insurance, you may enroll during a special enrollment period.

Enrolling in Medicare During the Initial Enrollment Period

Medicare’s IEP is seven months long and it includes the 3 months before you turn 65 (the recommended time to enroll), the month you turn 65, and the 3 months after your birthday. If you join during the 3 months before you turn 65, your coverage will begin the first day of the month you turn 65. If you join during the last 4 months of the initial enrollment period, your coverage will begin the first day of the month after you ask to join.

Enrolling is easy and can be accomplished online in just a few minutes. Just go to Medicare.gov and follow the links provided.

If you don’t enroll in Medicare during this initial enrollment period, then you can apply between January 1 and March 31 each year. But you usually will have to pay a higher premium for late enrollment. Note that the higher premium for Part B lasts as long as you have Part B.

If you don’t enroll in Medicare during this initial enrollment period, then you can apply between January 1 and March 31 each year. Remember though, you may have to pay a higher premium for late enrollment. Note that the higher premium for Part B lasts as long as you have Part B. If you don’t enroll in Medicare during the IEP because you’re still working and covered by your employer’s group health insurance, then you have a special enrollment period of eight months. It’s important to note that COBRA policies and retiree health insurance are not considered employer-provided group health plans.

Is saving money the only reason to enroll in Medicare when you're first eligible during the IEP? No. Saving money is not necessarily the most important reason. U.S. insurance companies (and healthcare providers) expect that older Americans will enroll in Medicare and, as a result, the insurance plans and options they offer to older Americans take this expectation into account.

What Choices and Decisions Will You Need to Consider When Applying for Medicare?

Decide first between Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage Plan.

  • Original Medicare includes hospital insurance (Part A) and medical insurance (Part B)
    • It provides direct coverage.
    • You can choose your doctors, hospitals, and other providers, so long as they accept Medicare.
    • You typically have some deductibles or co-pays, but you have the option to purchase supplemental coverage (Medigap Insurance) to cover those. Medigap insurance is provided by Medicare-approved private insurance companies and you can compare coverages and costs. Choosing a Medigap Policy can help you understand what a Medigap policy is and determine if you need one.
    • You usually pay a monthly premium for Part B. This is deducted from your monthly benefit payment if you are already receiving Social Security; otherwise, Medicare bills you.
    • If you want coverage for prescription drugs, you must choose and pay a premium for Part D Prescription Drug Plans. These plans come from approved private insurance companies. Drugs covered and costs differ among available plans so you will need to compare these.
  • Medicare Advantage Plans (called Part C) include hospital insurance (Part A) and medical insurance (Part B) and, usually, prescription drug coverage (Part D).
    • These plans are provided by approved private insurance companies.
    • In most Advantage plans, you must use doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers that participate in the plan or you may have to pay more or all of the cost.
    • Advantage plans usually include a premium, in addition to Part B, and they may or may not cover co-pays.
    • Advantage Plan coverages and costs vary among companies and plans so you need to carefully compare which plan meets your needs before applying.
    • Prescription drugs are covered by most Advantage plans but the list of specific drugs covered (the formulary) varies among plans and companies.
    • It is illegal for any insurance company or broker to try to sell you Medigap insurance if you have an Advantage Plan.
  • Do you wish to enroll in Part D for prescription drug coverage? If you have chosen to enroll in Original Medicare, you should also consider enrolling in Part D, prescription drug coverage, at the same time.
    • Part D is provided by approved private insurance companies and provides coverage for prescription drugs that are on the specific plan’s formulary (the list of drugs covered).
    • Coverages and premiums vary among companies and plans so be sure to compare policies carefully to see which coverage and terms best meet your needs before selecting a Plan D policy.
    • Costs for premiums, deductibles, and co-pays differ among plans so compare carefully.
    • If you do not enroll in Plan D during the initial enrollment period, you may enroll in Plan D in any year during the annual open enrollment period. If you have not had prescription drug coverage from another creditable source (such as Medicare Advantage or an employer plan) for 63 days or more, you typically owe a penalty for late enrollment.
    • See information about Drug Coverage (Part D) on Medicare.gov.

How Do You Get Started with Enrollment?

The easiest and best way is to use the online application process at www.Medicare.gov. Before you begin the application process, you can use the many educational resources available to learn more about Medicare options and which will help you meet your health needs and financial considerations.

We recommend three publications:

If you prefer to talk to a real person, you can find contact information for both the national Medicare office and your state resources on the site.

Plan to Act

IIf the 65th birthday is looming in your future, or a relative’s, take a little time to visit the Medicare.gov website. Just clicking through the helpful resources available will help you plan ahead. A little effort now can help you get the health care coverage you need at the best price.

 

FoolProof Fast Facts

Follow Corning CU:

Contact