If you will soon be age 65, you’ll want to know how to sign up for Medicare Parts A and B with the federal government. You may have questions about supplemental insurance as well.
Medicare Parts A & B enrollment is done through the Social Security Administration and can be accomplished in three different ways. See more on that below. Supplemental insurance is obtained through brokers like us.
Most consumers enroll at age 65, but those on disability can enroll earlier. And those who have qualifying group coverage at work can defer Part B enrollment until retirement.
Signing Up For Medicare At Age 65
There are three ways to enroll in Medicare:
- Personally visit your local Social Security Administrative office (if open)
- Call their toll-free number and speak with a representative
- Enroll online using their Medicare online enrollment form.
An easy and quick way to enroll is online. Because of Covid, many Social Security offices are not allowing face-to-face meetings.
However, the government has improved the functionality of their website and you can now enroll online in Part B only. This would apply to those who were already (and automatically) enrolled in Part A at age 65. You’ve always been able to enroll in Parts A & B together, but this new feature is helpful.
You can save the hassle of visiting your local office which may be far away or temporarily closed. If you’re enrolling in Part B only (because you already have Part A), you may need to provide proof of creditable coverage from work.
Calling the toll-free number (1-800-633-4227) is the next best way to start the process. It may take some time to get someone on the phone, but they’ll mail you your needed forms. It’s wise to start early as it can take a month or more to get everything going. In fact, Medicare allows you to start the process 3 months before your 65th birthday. We recommend doing so.
And where and when available, you can make an appointment at your Social Security office. Again, it may take a couple weeks to get an appointment, so start the process early. Meeting with a representative is helpful if you’re unsure about starting your Social Security payments. Medicare is tied to Social Security so oftentimes you’re working on both at the same time.
Watch Our Video Below On How To Enroll In Medicare & Choose Supplemental Coverage
Medicare Late Enrollment Premium Penalties
No matter how you choose to enroll in Medicare, it’s most important to do it at the right time. If you do not enroll in Parts A and B during your designated open enrollment window, you can be accessed higher premiums for life. And your coverage might be delayed as well.
Both Part B and Part D (drug) components of Medicare have late enrollment penalties for those who miss their personal deadlines. For most consumers, their enrollment window is the 3 months before their 65th birthday, month of, and three months after. For others, it’s when they enroll in Part B which can be early due to disability – or later because of employer coverage at work.
If you’re not sure, talk to an expert. Call us or someone like us. Missing your open enrollment window will cause coverage delays, monetary penalties, and unhappiness.
Understanding Medicare Part A
Open enrollment will differ for everyone, but most consumers enroll in Part A at age 65. Medicare Part A is free to U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are eligible for social security benefits, railroad retirement, and/or those who paid (or were a spouse of someone who paid) Medicare taxes.
This is usually a cost-free benefit. SSA advises consumers to enroll at age 65 even if they are not retired and do not plan on taking social security benefits. If you cannot meet the above mentioned criteria, you can still enroll in Part A by paying monthly premiums.
Most consumers get their Medicare card in the mail as they near age 65. Enrollment happens automatically, costs nothing, and is set going forward.
Understanding Medicare Part B
Medicare Part B is available to those age 65 who are also eligible for Part A. It’s also available to those who have been receiving disability benefits for 24 months.
Medicare Part B is NOT free. Premiums can vary based on your income. Those above certain income thresholds pay higher premiums based on a sliding scale. Those below certain levels pay less than the going rate. In general, Part B premiums are approximately $140 a month for most Medicare recipients.
It’s important to enroll in Part B at the right time for you personally. For some, that’s age 65 and for others it’s earlier due to disability. Still others can defer their Part B enrollment until after age 65 if they have qualifying group health insurance at work.
However, some consumers still have to enroll in Part B even if they have insurance at work. The size of your employer group will determine your best course of action.
It is highly recommended to speak with your human resources manager and a SSA representative to best understand how to proceed with Part B enrollment.
Paying Part B Premiums
Almost all Medicare beneficiaries have to pay Part B premiums. Again, it’s not free. If you’ve started Social Security, the premiums will be deducted automatically. There’s nothing you need to do… unless you want to defer Part B enrollment. If that’s the case, you need to tell SSA or Medicare.
If you are deferring Social Security, but still enrolling in Part B, then you can pay your premiums through an electronic funds transfer or bank draft. You can also mail a check quarterly.
Supplementing Your Medicare Coverage
Medicare does not cover everything. The government sponsored program has many gaps. It’s wise to plug them so you don’t face large bills later. There are two paths here:
- Enroll in a (Part C) Medicare Advantage Plan
- Purchase Medicare Supplement Coverage
One is not necessarily better than the other. Working with a broker, you can decide which type of policy best fits your needs and budget. You can’t have both – it’s one or the other.
Path 1) Medicare Advantage Part C Plans
Medicare Part C plans are private insurance plans referred to as Medicare Advantage plans. By rule, these policies must cover all of the benefits provided by Medicare Parts A & B, but privately so. In other words, you are turning your Medicare admin over to a company like Aetna, Humana, Anthem BCBS, United Healthcare or others. You typically need to stay in their network of doctors and hospitals to receive the best cost for healthcare.
Advantage plans offer benefits above and beyond traditional Medicare Parts A & B. Most include Part D drug benefits, dental, vision, hearing, recovery benefits, meals, transportation and more. But more importantly, they shore up the holes in original Medicare so you have known out of pocket costs for the year.
Medicare Advantage plans come in several shapes and sizes with differing benefit structures and maximum out of pocket costs for the year… both in and out of network. We can help you understand what to expect from these types of policies.
Path 2) Medicare Supplement Insurance
With a Medicare Supplement plan, you keep your Original Medicare Part A and B benefits from the government. You’re simply plugging the holes using a secondary payer. Supplements fill in all or most of the gaps. They start paying once Medicare stops.
There are generally no networks to worry about – you can see whoever you want that accepts Medicare. That’s virtually everyone. These policies are typically more expensive than Medicare Advantage plans, but are also more comprehensive as well. You will usually have less out of pocket exposure with a Supplement.
These policies typically don’t include much in the way of ancillary benefits. You will need to purchase dental, vision and Part D Drug coverage separately. They aren’t able to roll everything into one like their counterparts.
Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Coverage
The final piece of the Medicare puzzle is Part D prescription drug coverage. Part D is usually fairly simple and refers to the prescription drug plans that are offered by private insurance companies.
Some are sold on a stand-alone basis while others are packaged together with Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare supplements and Part D Drug coverage are always sold separately, however. Even if they are from the same insurance company, they must be two separate policies by rule.
It is important you enroll when first eligible to avoid late enrollment penalties and/or delays. Most consumers purchase a Part D plan either separately or as a package when eligible.
Open enrollment for Part D plans occur each year from October 15th to December 7th. If you are unhappy with your prescription drug coverage, then you can purchase a new plan (effective January 1st) without medical underwriting or proof of insurability.
Contact Us for More Information
Hyers and Associates is a full service health insurance brokerage offering Medicare guidance and insurance across the country. We can help you sign up and enroll in Medicare. We can also help with your supplemental coverage as well. Contact us today!