What to know if turning 65 in 2017
For most people, turning 65 means you’re eligible for Original Medicare, Part A and Part B. This federal program provides hospital insurance and some medical insurance to older Americans and those under 65 with certain disabilities.
At this time, you may also choose to enroll in Medicare Part C, also called Medicare Advantage. These plans are available from private insurance companies and must offer the same benefits as Part A and Part B, but may add more coverage such as vision, dental, or prescription drug benefits. Or you could add a stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan to your Original Medicare to receive prescription drug coverage. Medicare Supplement insurance (called Medigap) is also available to add to your Medicare coverage and help cover the “gaps” in Original Medicare.
Automatically Enrolling in Original Medicare If you are getting benefits from Social Security, you will automatically get Part A and Part B starting the first day of the month you turn 65. (If your birthday is on the first day of the month, Part A and Part B will start the first day of the prior month.)
If you are under 65 and disabled, you’ll automatically get Part A and Part B after you get disability benefits from Social Security for 24 months.
If you have ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease), you’ll get Part A and Part B automatically the month your Social Security disability benefits begin.
If you are automatically enrolled, you’ll get your red, white and blue card in the mail 3 months before your 65th birthday or 25th month of disability benefits. If you do nothing, you’ll keep Part B and will pay Part B premiums. You can choose not to keep Part B, but you may have to wait to enroll and pay a penalty for as long as you have Part B.
Manually enrolling in Original Medicare If you are not getting retirement benefits yet, you will need to sign up manually for Medicare Part A and/or Part B through Social Security. • Visit the Social Security Website (https:// www.socialsecurity.gov/medicare/apply.html). You can apply for Medicare only, if you’re not ready to receive retirement benefits.
• Call Social Security at 1-800772-1213, Monday through Friday, from 7AM to 7PM
• Apply in person at your local Social Security office
First-time Medicare beneficiaries have what is called an Initial Enrollment Period. This period starts three months prior to your 65th birthday, includes your birth month, and extends three months after your birth month. It’s important to enroll during this time. If you do not enroll during the Initial Enrollment Period, you may incur late fees or have to wait until the General Enrollment Period between January 1 to March 31 of the following year.
If you or your spouse are still working when you turn 65 and you have health insurance through this employer, you might consider delaying enrollment in Part B. You may not wish to pay the Part B premium if you don’t need the coverage. Contact your current employer’s Human Resources Department to see if that coverage is sufficient and find out how it might work with Medicare Part B before making a decision.
When your employer coverage ends or you are no longer actively employed, you will be provided with a Special Enrollment Period that lasts eight months to sign up for Medicare Part B without incurring a penalty.
Enrolling in Additional Medicare Coverage After you’ve enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, you can enhance this coverage with a Medigap plan and a prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D). Or you could choose to get all your coverage in the form of a Medicare Advantage plan.
Mike Zimmer is president of Bay State Insurance Agency Ltd. in Centreville. He is available to answer your questions or speak to your groups regarding Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplements and Medicare Part D (Prescription Plans) He may be reached at 410-758-1680.