Enrollment in Medicare is not automatic, and anyone approaching eligibility should know that they will not receive any official reminder about enrolling unless they’re already collecting Social Security benefits.
Each person is responsible for knowing the 7-month window for initial Medicare enrollment that falls around their 65th birthday. But it can be easy to overlook, especially if you work past age 65 or if you expect that it will coincide with Social Security full retirement age. For those born in 1943-1954, Social Security full retirement age is 66, but eligibility for Medicare still starts at 65.
Failing to enroll during your initial enrollment period can lead to late penalties for Medicare Part B and Part D. The Part B late penalty means a 10% premium increase for every 12 months that you delay enrollment—and in most cases, you’ll pay that penalty for every month that you have Medicare.
If you’re covered under an employer’s health insurance, whether it’s your own or your spouse’s, you can delay your Medicare Part B coverage and its premiums during your initial enrollment period. Once employment and private coverage ends, you’ll have a special enrollment period without a late enrollment penalty.
Note, however, that if you are one of less than 20 employees, your employer’s insurance carrier can require that Medicare become your primary payer at your age 65, and in that case you’ll have to enroll in both Parts A and B.
When to apply for Medicare benefits
You can file an application for Medicare as early as three months before the month you turn 65 and as late as three months after your 65th birthday. If you need coverage the month you turn 65, be sure to apply in the three months prior to your birth month. If you apply after your 65th birthday, there will be a delay of one to three months before you receive coverage.
How to apply
You can apply online for Medicare by visiting the Social Security website. You can also apply by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 from 7 am to 7 pm on weekdays, or by visiting your local Social Security office.
If you have questions or need help with any aspect of your Medicare planning, please contact your advisor. We can refer you to the consultative services of a Medicare insurance specialist whom several of our clients have worked with and enjoyed satisfying results.
By Joan Hill / Communications Coordinator
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