Follow These Steps to Apply for Medicare

Enrollment in Medicare isn’t automatic for everyone. Knowing when you should apply and which plans you should consider will help you make the right choices. Health insurance becomes increasingly more important for you as you age, so understanding how Medicare works and how to apply for it is important.


Determining the Right Time to Apply for Medicare

To ensure a smooth transition to Medicare, it’s essential to understand the ideal application timing. The initial enrollment period commences three months prior to your 65th birthday and extends for three months after you turn 65. If you haven’t already begun receiving retirement benefits or chosen to do so when you reach 65, it’s crucial to apply for Medicare within this seven-month window.

If you happen to miss the Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare, your next opportunity is the general open enrollment period, which takes place from January 1 to March 31 each year. However, waiting until the general open enrollment period may result in a penalty for the delay in enrolling in Medicare.


Determining Your Eligibility for Automatic Medicare Enrollment

If you currently receive Social Security benefits or will be eligible for them when you reach 65, you’ll be automatically enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B. In the case of disability, regardless of your age, Medicare benefits will be automatically extended to you after being on disability for 24 months. However, if you have end-stage kidney disease or ALS, you won’t need to wait for the full 24-month period to access Medicare.

Medicare Part A, which covers hospitalization expenses, does not come with a premium. If you have consistently paid Medicare taxes throughout your life, you automatically qualify for Medicare Part A at no additional cost. Many individuals opt for Medicare Part A, even if they are still employed, as it serves as supplementary insurance to their employer’s coverage. This can help reduce out-of-pocket expenses when dealing with medical bills.

On the other hand, Medicare Part B does come with premiums. This component provides coverage for doctors’ services, and many people postpone enrollment until it becomes a necessity. Typically, individuals who continue to work beyond the age of 65 delay signing up for Medicare Part B if they have insurance through their employer. Some people may also maintain insurance coverage through their employer’s COBRA system, even if they are no longer employed. Both types of insurance are considered ‘insurance coverage,’ and they allow you to enroll in Medicare Part B without incurring a late enrollment penalty once that coverage ends.


Enroll in Medicare

If you won’t automatically receive Medicare because you didn’t accept your retirement benefits yet, you must go online and apply for Medicare. If you don’t want to apply online, you can also head to your local social security office or call social security at 1-800-772-1213.


The Medicare Penalty Explained

It’s crucial to grasp the implications of the Medicare penalty in the event of delaying your enrollment in either Medicare Part A or Part B.

Medicare imposes a 10% penalty in addition to your standard Part B premium for each year you forego Medicare enrollment despite being eligible for it. The sole exception to this penalty is having credible health insurance through your employer because you are actively employed at age 65. Such employer-based coverage qualifies as insurance and, if maintained, shields you from incurring a late enrollment penalty should you opt to enroll in Medicare at a later date


Buying Medicare Supplements

If you want prescription drug coverage, you’ll need Medicare Part D. You get Part D coverage from an independent insurance agent that is authorized to sell Medicare Part D. You can enroll in a prescription drug plan at the same time that you enroll in Medicare Part A or Part B. If you miss your seven-month window, you can enroll in Part D during its open enrollment period of October 15 to December 7 each year.

Like Medicare Part B, there is a late enrollment penalty if you don’t get a Medicare Part D plan right away and choose a plan later. Even if you don’t take prescription drugs now, it pays to take an inexpensive drug plan now to avoid the higher premiums for the rest of your life from the late enrollment penalty.

Signing up for Medicare takes time, but it’s not complicated. Following the steps above, you can get your plan in motion as soon as three months before your 65th birthday. This ensures that you will have coverage as soon as you hit 65-years old.