The first step in Medicare planning is enrolling in Medicare Parts A & B. Most people are entitled to Part A automatically when turning age 65 because of work credits. Nothing usually needs to be done here. Medicare will mail out your red, white and blue card showing your Part A effective date as the first of the month when you turn age 65.
Medicare Part B is the gatekeeper, however. This is the one that requires your careful attention. Not everyone is automatically enrolled (or entitled to Part B) at age 65. In fact, some people defer Part B enrollment until they retire some months or years after turning 65. But it’s the part of the puzzle that allows you to move to the next step, so you’ll want to make sure you’re on top of it.
Failing to enroll in Medicare Part B when you are required can lead to enrollment delays and/or late enrollment penalties. These penalties can increase your Part B premiums (what you pay to the government) for your lifetime. It’s very important to get this enrollment timed correctly.
You’ll only want to defer Part B enrollment if you have creditable coverage elsewhere; maybe through your employer. If this is not the case and you’re turning 65, you need to start the enrollment process. There are several ways to enroll in Medicare Part B:
- Contact your local Social Security office and make an appointment
- Call 1-800-Medicare
- Visit www.medicare.gov and begin your application online
There are thousands of people turning 65 every day. The representatives at Medicare are usually pretty good at telling you how & when to enroll. Whether you defer Social Security beyond age 65 will also determine your path forward. If you are electing SS payments, then you may want to make an appointment at your local SSA office. Your Part B premiums will be deducted from your SS check when you begin payments.
If you are deferring Social Security beyond age 65, then you can try options 1 or 2 as they are more convenient. In this case, Medicare will bill you quarterly for your Part B amounts. Make sure you keep track of and pay those bills. We’ve seen cases where some people missed their Part B payments and that led to a coverage gap and a lifetime penalty.