While the general Medicare plan has brought medical care to elderly and disabled citizens, the government-funded program provides coverage for care in hospitals and other critical-care facilities. Routine needs and prescriptions, however, require an added component. Part B helps fill that gap, covering doctor's exams and other services at a monthly premium for participants. There are certain time periods when Part B can be added and certain factors that affect eligibility and premium costs.
Sign up for Medicare Part B when you sign up for Medicare initially, between the three months before your 65th birthday and the four months after your 65th birthday. Some people are sent packages that automatically enroll them in Medicare Part B unless they opt out initially. Check the information that you receive to see if you are required to opt-in or not.
If you missed the initial sign-up period, you are able to enroll during general enrollment, between January 1st and March 31st annually.
If you didn't sign up for Part B initially because you or a spouse had health insurance through en employer, an exception applies to you once your circumstances change. You may add Part B anytime you or a spouse is covered through an employer or immediately after you stop being employed. These time periods are referred to as "Special Enrollment Periods." If you fail to sign up for Part B during a Special Enrollment Period or during your initial Medicare enrollment, you may be liable for higher premiums.
To enroll during any of the above periods, contact the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213.
If you have trouble paying your bills, financial assistance is available to assist in paying the premium for Part B. Medicaid is funded by federal and state government sources. Those with limited income sources may apply. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services has information about application procedures in each state. To contact the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, call (800) 465-3203.
The Social Security Administration also offers extra help for those struggling to pay for medical care associated with Medicare. To contact them, call (800) 772-1213 or visit the link below in the Resources section.
- Paul Barker