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Where do I apply for Medicare benefits?
Just the Essentials...
Some people start Medicare Parts A and B automatically.
You can apply for Medicare using Social Security’s online portal, phone line, or local offices.
When first becoming eligible, Medicare provides a 7 month initial enrollment period to sign up.
If you have employer insurance, you must decide which Parts of Medicare to enroll in.
Although most people must sign up for Medicare themselves, some people are enrolled in Medicare Part A and B automatically.
If already receiving benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board at least four months before you turn 65, Medicare A and B start automatically. They start the first day of the month that you turn 65. If your birthday is on the first day of the month, you begin Medicare the month before.
Additionally, if you are under the age of 65 receiving disability benefits, Parts A and B automatically start after 24 months.
If you have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parts A and B automatically start the month you start your disability benefits. Those with ALS do not have to wait 24 months for Medicare coverage unlike others with disability benefits.
If automatically enrolled in Medicare, you will receive your Medicare card by mail before you turn 65 or your 25th month of disability benefits.
There are a few ways to sign up and apply for Medicare. You can apply:
Online at the Social Security website
In person applications at your local Social Security office
By calling Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board; whichever program provides your income benefits will process your application.
For those aging in at 65, Medicare provides a seven-month initial enrollment period (IEP). It starts three full months before the month you turn 65 and ends three months after your 65th birthday month.
A General Enrollment Period (GEP) between January 1 and March 31 takes place each year.
If you enroll during the GEP, coverage for Part B and/or premium-paid Part A will begin on July 1. With eligibility for premium-free Medicare part A, you can sign up anytime during or after your initial enrollment period.
If you miss these enrollment periods and have to buy Part A, enroll during the Annual Enrollment Period between October 15 and December 7. Under certain circumstances, you may qualify for a special enrollment period.
Not signing up for Medicare Part B when first eligible leaves you responsible for a late enrollment penalty. It lasts the entire time that you have Medicare Part B.
What are the different parts of Medicare?
There are a few different parts of Medicare:
Medicare Part A is hospital insurance, but it also covers nursing facilities and hospice care.
Medicare Part B is medical insurance and covers visits to doctor’s offices, medical supplies. It also covers other types of preventative services and outpatient care. Most people have to pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part B.
In 2021, the typical Part B premium is $148.50. However, you may pay a different amount if Medicaid pays your premiums, if you are late to enroll in part B for the first time, or if your income is above a certain amount.
Medicare Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage. These Part C plans are offered by private health insurance companies that work together with Medicare to provide your A and B benefits.
With Medicare Advantage, hospital and medical services will be covered by your plan and not by Medicare Parts A and B. However, Medicare Advantage plans often provide greater coverage and a wider array of benefits than Original Medicare alone.
Medicare Part D is for prescription drug coverage. These plans are also offered by private companies approved and contracted with Original Medicare.
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