Turning 65 is an exciting time with the possibilities of retiring, traveling, more time for your family and friends, and doing the activities you enjoy.
When you turn 65, you become the most popular person on earth (or so it seems). Your mailbox is full of Medicare “stuff”: mailers from agents, insurance companies, and the Center for Medicare Services (CMS) itself. Sometimes it’s hard to determine what is officially from Medicare and what is not. Your phone starts ringing with agents and companies telling you that what they have is the best for you.
I have a few suggestions to help keep it simple.
- Start early. There is a seven month window to enroll in Medicare: three months prior to your 65th birthday, the month of your birth, and three months after your birth month.
If you don’t sign up during this seven month window, you will incur a penalty of 10% for each 12 month period you delay your enrollment.
If your birthday is on the first of the month, your Medicare benefits will begin the first of the prior month. Example: Birthday June 1st, your Medicare benefits begin on May 1st.
- If you are going to continue working and are covered by group insurance, in most cases you should at least enroll in Medicare Part A. Enrolling or not enrolling in Medicare Part B and Part D depends on how your employer insurance works.
Before you do anything, contact your employer benefits or human resources department and find out if your employer insurance will remain primary or become secondary to Medicare. Depending how this works for your specific employer will dictate if you should enroll in Part A only, Part A and B or hold off on enrolling in Medicare at all until you retire.
Making the wrong choice of enrolling or not enrolling could incur you a penalty, so after speaking with your employer, it wouldn’t hurt to verify the facts you’ve learned with the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.
- Enrolling in Medicare is as simple as contacting or visiting your Social Security Administration or going to its website at www.ssa.gov.
- Once you have enrolled for Part A (Inpatient Care) and Part B (Outpatient Care), you will be in Original Medicare. Original Medicare is the traditional fee for service program offered directly through the federal government. Original Medicare has deductibles, co-insurance and out of pocket expenses, some with no caps. It is a good idea to have some type of supplemental insurance to cover your out of pocket expenses.
There are two ways to address these out of pocket expenses:
- Medicare Supplements (Medigap insurance) works directly with Original Medicare. You have the freedom to go to any doctor that accepts Medicare, anytime, with no network restrictions.
- Medicare Advantage Plans are plans that replace Original Medicare. These plans must offer at least the same benefits as Original Medicare, but they are allowed to have different costs, coverage, restrictions, and networks.
For more information, refer to the tabs for Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage.