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Just the Essentials...
New applicants can apply for Medicare online as well as by phone, in-person or by mail.
You can apply for Medicare as early as three months before your coverage can start. For most, Medicare starts the month of their 65th birthday.
During your Initial Enrollment Period, you can also apply for extra protection and benefits without regarding pre-existing health conditions, and without delay.
These days an online application is quickest and easiest, usually requiring only a few minutes.
Easily apply online through Social Security’s website or by the traditional methods of mail, telephone, or in-person with a local Social Security Office.
Overall, the online application for Medicare takes the least amount of time. The online account you create using Social Security’s website offers features that can come in handy later, like replacing your Medicare card.
For most, the first chance to enroll surrounds their 65th birthday. Whether you enroll in Medicare online, or using another method, you get a seven month period to do so. However, if you apply during the latter three months of this period, then your coverage start date may be delayed.
If applying later than that, you may face a late enrollment fee that can last permanently.
On the other hand, some people start Medicare automatically due to disability or certain diagnoses. Generally speaking, most people need to enroll themselves, and the most straightforward method is to apply for Medicare online.
How to Apply for Medicare Online
Applicants can quickly and easily sign up for Medicare online at the Social Security Web page or with Medicare.gov. These involve little more than filling out forms with personal information to identify the applicant, prove citizenship or lawful status, and eligibility by birth date.
Although many households do not have a reliable internet connection, there are often public spaces like county libraries with online access at no cost. By comparison, there is still time saved online rather than waiting on the phone, and an even longer wait for mail correspondence.
When to Apply for Medicare Online
You can apply for Medicare online as early as three months before your coverage would be able to start. In order to avoid delays to starting your Medicare coverage, apply during those early months.
Whether you apply for Medicare online, or using another method, you get a seven month period to do so. However, if you apply during the latter three months of this period, then your coverage start date may be delayed.
Additionally, those that do not enroll in Medicare during their Initial Enrollment Period can receive a late enrollment penalty.
Part B is medical insurance, and unless one has an exception resulting in special enrollment, the late application will cause a penalty if done a year or more after the Initial Enrollment Period.
The penalty equals 10 percent of the monthly premium for each 12 months of lateness. The penalty permanently sticks with the Part B premium.
On the other hand, Part A typically has no premium cost for those who worked and paid taxes during their lifetime. Nonetheless, a Part A late enrollment penalty exists for those who do have to pay a premium for Part A.
With the Part A late enrollment penalty, a 10% premium increase is likewise added to the Part A monthly premium for each full year late. However, the Part A penalty lasts twice the number of years you were late.
General Enrollment Period
Those that do not sign up for Medicare during their initial enrollment period can add Part A and Part B during the General Enrollment Period.
This open signup period runs from January 1 through March 31 each calendar year. Coverage purchased during this period will begin on the following first day of July.
Importantly, if enrolling during the General Enrollment Period, there may still be a penalty for late enrollment in Part A or Part B if the approaching July 1st start date marks 12 months of lateness.
Special Enrollment Periods
The other sign-up windows beyond the Initial Enrollment Period are known as special enrollment periods
Generally, Medicare grants a Special Enrollment Period due to exceptional life circumstances that impeded on your enrollment window. For example, one can qualify for special enrollment when a job ends or job-sponsored insurance coverage ends.
There are other qualifying life events for a special enrollment period, including:
Change of address
Recent natural disaster
Eight-month window for applicants whose job-sponsored plan ends
Eight-month window for applicants after job ends
Choosing Original Medicare 's Network
Original Medicare consists of Medicare Part A – Hospital Insurance and Medicare Part B – Medical Insurance.
Together, they provide a broad insurance coverage for medical services and hospital care. These include the treatments and equipment deemed medically necessary to treat an illness, medical condition, or disease.
Original Medicare is well known for its broad network of doctors and facilities across the United States. Participants can choose any doctor or hospital that participates in the Medicare payment system, and most doctors do.
Further, members of Original Medicare do not need referrals to see specialists or to use any particular resource.
Despite the vastness of Original Medicare, no coverage exists for benefits outside of necessary hospital stays and medical services. Prescription drug coverage must come from another Medicare-approved program outside of Original Medicare.
With such an essential piece of total healthcare excluded from Parts A and B, the decision for prescription insurance and other crucial benefits come from private plans.
Perhaps one of the most widely known Medicare programs, Medicare Advantage can fill these areas of coverage and offer health-related benefits like dental, vision, hearing, or transportation for doctor visits.
Medicare Advantage Adds Consumer Choices
The Congressional purpose of Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) was to add private sector creativity and competitive benefits for eligible Americans and their healthcare needs.
Medicare Advantage has private insurance plans that use more closely-knit networks of doctors that serve communities and small regions. These plans make a distinction between providers inside the plan and those outside the plan’s coverage.
The local networks used by Medicare Advantage plans promote health resources in the community. Consumers pay higher costs when using providers outside of their plan’s network.