When you become 65 years of age, you will be eligible for Medicare benefits from the United States government. Medicare is health insurance that covers a wide range of medical expenses. It can serve as either primary coverage or secondary coverage if you have private insurance. If you apply for Social Security, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare. However, if you are still working at age 65 and beyond, you will need to enroll. There is a specific time frame for enrollment and several choices for the type of coverage you would like. Part B Medicare covers doctor’s visits and outpatient care, as well as preventive care. There are two types of coverage: Original, which is overseen by the federal government, and Advantage Plans, which are run by private insurance companies and are typically HMOs or PPOs.
Assess your income, overall health and health care needs, and employment. There is a basic monthly premium required, but that amount may go up, depending on your annual income and marital status. Even if you are still working, you may want to sign up for Part B Medicare, as it will act as secondary coverage.
Review your options. You will need to choose between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Original Medicare allows you to choose any health care professional who accepts Medicare as payment for services. You will pay a monthly premium for Part B coverage, and deductibles may apply. Medicare Advantage is typically an HMO or PPO plan, which means that you will need to stay within the network of health care providers that are part of that HMO or PPO. You will have a copay in addition to your premium. For a thorough explanation of coverage for both plans, go to the Medicare website listed in Resources.
Follow the time frame guidelines to sign up. There is a seven-month time frame in which to sign up for the first time. Beginning three months prior to your 65th birthday and ending three months after your birthday, you may enroll in Medicare. If you don’t sign up during this time period, you will have to wait until the open enrollment period, which is November 15 to December 31. Your coverage will not begin until the following January.
Get help and have questions answered. The federal government has provided answers to many of your questions on its Medicare website. Or if you prefer to speak to someone in person, you may call the Medicare helpline at (800) MEDICARE (633-4227).
Go to your local Social Security office to sign up. You can locate your nearest office at ssa.gov/ or by calling (800) 772-1213. If you would like to apply for Social Security and Medicare at the same time, you may apply online at the Social Security website above. There will be a series of questions for you to answer to determine your eligibility.
Make sure to pay close attention to the sign-up period as you approach your 65th birthday. Failing to sign up during your enrollment period will delay your coverage.