Medicare eligibility begins at age 65 for most people. If you are turning 65 soon, you are next up to join the ranks of Medicare beneficiaries. Here’s what you need to know to get prepared.
1. You Have a Set Time to Enroll in Medicare
The first time you can enroll in Medicare is called your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Your Initial Enrollment Period is 7 months long. It includes:
For most people, this is the best time to sign up for Medicare. Signing up for Medicare coverage during your Initial Enrollment Period can help you avoid late enrollment penalties.
2. You May Be Able to Delay Medicare Part B
Most people get Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) premium-free because they or a spouse worked and paid taxes for at least 10 years. Part B (medical insurance) has a monthly premium that for 2020 is $144.60 to $491.60, depending on income.
You may be able or want to delay signing up for Part B if you have other health care coverage, such as through an employer or union. You must qualify for a Special Enrollment Period to avoid a late enrollment penalty if you delay Part B. If you have coverage through an employer, you may also choose to delay enrolling in Part A, especially if you still want to contribute to a health savings account (HSA).
3. There Are Two Ways to Get Medicare
Medicare gives you two ways to get your benefits:
Original Medicare (Parts A & B), the traditional way
Medicare Advantage (Part C), an alternative to Original Medicare
Original Medicare is administered by the federal government. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. They must provide all the same benefits as Original Medicare Parts A and B. Many Medicare Advantage plans include additional benefits, such as coverage for prescription drugs, dental, vision, hearing, fitness and more.
4. Medicare Doesn’t Cover Prescription Drugs, Dental and More
Original Medicare doesn’t include coverage for prescription drugs and other health items. To get prescription drug coverage, you may either buy a standalone prescription drug plan (Part D) or choose a Medicare Advantage plan with included drug coverage.
Generally, you don’t need additional coverage if you choose a Medicare Advantage plan as most come with prescription drug coverage included.
5. Am I Required to Get Medicare?
Medicare is not required, but if you decide not to enroll at age 65 and do not qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, this could be costly. Medicare Parts A, B and D all have late enrollment penalties, and these can quickly add up. Take some time to think carefully and know all your options if you are considering not enrolling in Medicare. It’s usually a good idea to enroll at age 65 if you do not qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.
6. You May Qualify for Help with Medicare
Several programs offer financial assistance with Medicare premiums and other costs. You may want to look into them, even if you think you might not be eligible.
Other programs may be available in your state as well, and you should check with your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) office to learn more.
Plan Ahead Before You Turn 65
Don’t let Medicare enrollment sneak up on you. Use these 6 tips and get a head start on learning the basics about Medicare so you can make an informed decision when the time comes. And to get a head start, get Medicare resources and information delivered right to your inbox about the Initial Enrollment Period.