Almost 65? Reaching this milestone birthday might have you thinking about one major decision – enrolling in Medicare. Don’t go filling out that application on the government website just yet. Here are five things that you should consider before you join Medicare.
#1) Get Started Early!
Just as with any government program, you’ll want to start the process of applying for Medicare benefits early. You can Apply for Medicare online if you are within 3 months of turning age 65. This enrollment window continues until 3 months after your 65th birthday. If you are retiring at 65, you will probably already be investigating Medicare along with your Social Security benefits. If your retirement age is 66 or 67, however, you might not be aware that you can still apply for Medicare at age 65. Make sure that you gather the information you need about Medicare beforehand so that you can take action as soon as your enrollment period starts.
#2) Working Past 65?
Just because you are almost 65 does not mean that you will retire soon. Increasingly, people are working past age 65. If you plan to continue working, you can still apply for Medicare Part A three months before your 65th birthday. Medicare Part A is hospital insurance that is offered to everyone with no premium, provided that you have worked and paid taxes for a certain period of time. What you will want to consider, however, is whether or not you will need to sign up for Medicare Part B, which covers doctors’ visits and other outpatient services for a premium. If you already have health insurance through your employer, you may not need to pay for Medicare Part B, but instead might want to apply for a special enrollment period (SEP) that will allow you to enroll at a later time. Discuss your options regarding your health insurance and Medicare Part B with your employer before making any decisions.
#3) Medicare Enrollment is Not Automatic
Whether or not you will need to apply for Medicare to start your Medicare benefits, or if you if you are set to be automatically enrolled, will depend on your Social Security.
- Enrollment is automatic if you are receiving Social Security benefits on or prior to your 65th Birthday
- Manual enrollment for Medicare is required if you have decided to delay your Social Security benefits until after your 65 birthday
To be eligible for Medicare Part A without having to pay a premium, you have to have worked the equivalent of about 10 years, paying Social Security and Medicare taxes while working. If you haven’t worked this long, you can still enroll in Medicare Part A, but you will need to pay a premium based on how long you have worked. (Medicare Parts B and D always require a premium.) Also, remember that Medicare is not automatically provided when you enroll in Social Security. You have to sign up for it separately.
#4) Check Out Your Coverage Options
Medicare Parts A and B don’t cover all the health expenses you might encounter. You can stick with Original Medicare and take your chances on the extra expenses, or you can purchase additional plans to fill in the gap. Medicare refers to these types of plans as Medicare Part C. There are a couple of options to consider:
- Medicare Supplement – A Medicare supplement plan, also called Medigap, covers the portion of health care expenses that original Medicare does not. To get a Medicare supplement, you must already have enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B.
- Medicare Advantage – When you enroll in this type of plan, an insurance company manages your Medicare to help keep costs down. You must enroll in Medicare Parts A and B to be eligible for an advantage plan. Many insurance companies also offer prescription drug coverage through advantage plans.
You can learn more about the differences between Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage Plans HERE.
#5) Shop Around For the Best Plan
Not all Medicare Supplement and Advantage Plans are the same. It pays to shop around and compare plans based on several factors:
- Service Area
- Level of Coverage
- Network of Providers (is your doctor in your network?)
- Extras, such as Dental Insurance or Reimbursement for Health Club Memberships
As with any product, insurance companies love to compete for your business and weighing all the choices can be confusing. It might pay to get some help when making this important decision. Medicare Hero sorts out all of the options and can help you to make an informed decision regarding your Medicare coverage.