aren’t receiving Social Security or Railroad Board benefits when you turn 65,
you will have to sign up for Medicare A and/or Part B during your Initial
Enrollment Period (IEP). This enrollment period begins three months before
your 65th birthday, includes the month that you turn 65, and ends three months
later (seven months).
If you miss
your initial enrollment for whatever reason, you can sign up for Medicare Part
A and/or Part B during the General Enrollment Period that runs from
January 1 through March 31 of every year. You may have to pay a late enrollment
penalty for both Part A and Part B if you did not sign up when you were first
Between Traditional and Medicare Advantage Coverage
One of the first things you’ll need to do when deciding what
coverage is best for you is carefully consider whether “traditional Medicare”
(Parts A and B) or Medicare Advantage (Part C) coverage better meets your
When you enroll in Medicare for the first time, if you do
nothing, you’ll automatically be signed up for traditional Medicare.
After your IEP, If you decide to switch to another coverage
option, like a Medicare Advantage plan, you can do this during the annual
“Annual Enrollment Period” that runs from October 15 to December 7 every year.
Beginning in 2019, there’s a new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period that
runs from January 1 through March 31 every year. Members may also switch during
About Medicare Advantage Plans
All Medicare Advantage plans must include everything that
traditional Medicare covers. In addition, all Medicare Advantage plans limit
out-of-pocket costs and, as mentioned above, most also include Part D drug
coverage. (If you choose a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t include Part D,
and you want drug coverage, you’ll have to sign up for that coverage
separately.) Some Medicare Advantage plans charge lower copays than traditional
Medicare, but may also charge an extra monthly premium, and may require members
to see healthcare providers in the plan’s network.
Sign Up at the Start of Your Initial Enrollment Period
Some people—including those who started to receive Social
Security or other benefits before turning 65—are automatically signed up for
Medicare Parts A and B. Everyone else has to enroll on their own. Make sure you
sign up for Medicare coverage as soon as you’re eligible by enrolling early in
your Initial Enrollment Period. This seven-month period includes: the three
months before the month you turn 65; the month you turn 65; and the three
months following that birthday. If you enroll during the first three months of
your enrollment period, your coverage will begin sooner than if you sign up
later in the enrollment period. Enroll by visiting your local Social Security
office or calling Social Security at 800-772-1213.
Sign Up for Part D Even if You Don’t Take Many Drugs
If you’re planning to enroll in a traditional Medicare plan,
or a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t cover prescriptions, consider signing
up for Part D (Medicare’s prescription drug plan) right from the start – even
if you don’t take many medications right now. Why? If you wait, you may end up
having to pay a higher premium when enrolling in Part D later.
Apply for Extra Help
If you have limited income and resources, you may qualify for
the federal Extra Help program, which helps people cover their Medicare
Prescription Drug Plan costs. If you’re already enrolled in Medicaid,
Supplemental Security Income, or a Medicare Savings Program, you automatically
qualify for Extra Help. If you’re not enrolled in those programs, you can apply
by contacting the Social Security Administration or at your local Med-QUEST
Reevaluate Your Medicare Choices Every Fall
Every September or October, check whether your current plan
is still the best fit for you. If a new plan will better meet your needs, you
can switch once the open enrollment period begins in October. Members may also
switch during the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period from January 1
through March 31, beginning in 2019. Your circumstances may have changed over
the course of the year so that your current plan isn’t as good a fit as it was
Avoid late enrollment penalty
When signing up for traditional Medicare, most people can
choose to get Part A coverage only, and skip Part B and the monthly premium
that goes along with it. If you don’t enroll in Part B when first eligible you
may have to pay a late enrollment penalty when you finally do join. There are
some exceptions: If you have health coverage through your or your spouse’s
employer, for example, you may be able to defer enrolling in Part B without
paying a late enrollment penalty. You must have a proof of creditable coverage.
Attend a Medicare 101 session to learn more about how
Medicare works and what to do to avoid paying late enrollment penalties for the
rest of your life.
Click HERE to see the list of Medicare 101 sessions in your
area and to RSVP.
Ready to sign up for a plan? Compare Your Medicare Options
click HERE to go to compare plans available to you. When you click, you will be
to read it.