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How Do I Enroll in Medicare?

Medicare divides your coverage into several parts. Medicare Part A covers your inpatient services, like hospital stays, and Medicare Part B covers your outpatient services, such as office visits to your doctor. You’ll most likely be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A. If you’re drawing Social Security, you may be enrolled in Medicare Part B as well.

Three months before your 65th birthday, you should receive a large envelope from the Social Security office. This envelope will include papers describing Medicare, as well as your Medicare ID card. If you’ve been automatically enrolled, you’ll see the date your coverage starts next to the Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B lines, at the bottom of your card.

How Do I Enroll in Medicare Part A?

You should be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A if you or your spouse worked at least 40 quarters in the United States (10 years). As long as you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes while working, you won’t have to pay a monthly premium for Part A.

If you’re not eligible for premium-free Part A, you may purchase it. You can learn what your premium will be and enroll at the Social Security website.

How Do I Enroll in Medicare Part B?

If you’re drawing Social Security benefits before you turn 65, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B. If you’re not taking your benefits, you’ll proactively need to sign up for Part B, which you can do by contacting Social Security.

Medicare Part B requires a monthly premium. While most people in 2020 pay the standard $144.60 monthly premium for Part B, costs may increase depending on your previous yearly income. For example, if your yearly income two years ago was above $85,000 and up to $107,000, you would have to pay a monthly premium of $202.40 in 2020. If you have any questions about your Part B premium, Social Security can answer them. You can contact Social Security at 1-(800) 772-1213. TTY users 1-(800) 325-0778, or enroll online at the Social Security website.

Can I Opt-Out of Medicare Part B?

You may decide to opt-out of Medicare Part B or delay enrollment if you’re currently working and receiving creditable coverage. However, if you don’t have health coverage, and didn’t sign up for Part B in a timely fashion, you could face significant penalties.

For every 12 month period that you didn’t have your Part B, you’ll be charged an extra 10% of your premium, for the duration of your Medicare coverage. For example, if you missed a year, and your Part B premium in 2020 is $144.60, then you would have to pay an additional $14.46 every month. You would also need to wait until the General Enrollment Period (January 1st-March 31st) to apply for Part B, and your coverage won’t be active until July 1st.

If you decide to opt-out, the packet you received from Social Security also includes instructions on how to send the ID card back. If you do this, you’ll receive a new card that states you are enrolled in Medicare Part A only.

When Can I Sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B?

You can apply for Medicare Parts A and B up to three months in advance of when you would like your coverage to start. You may choose to have it start as early as the 1st day of the month of your 65th birthday. If you don’t have another form of health coverage, you need to sign up within three months of turning 65 to avoid penalties.

If you’re planning to retire, you can also sign up to three months in advance of your desired start date. You have up to 8 months after losing creditable coverage to pick up Medicare Part B penalty-free. It’s important to keep in mind that while the health coverage you receive while working is typically considered creditable, COBRA is not.

When Can I Sign Up for a Medicare Supplement Plan?

Once you know when you want your Medicare Part B coverage to start, if you’re ready you can begin to shop for your Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan. Medicare Supplement plans come in a range of benefit options, and protect you from the costs leftover from Medicare’s coverage, like the 20% uncapped coinsurance. Most carriers allow you to sign up for a plan up to six months ahead of time. You can use our online tool to view rates in your area and sign up for coverage.

Nothing on this website should ever be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult with your medical provider regarding diagnosis or treatment for a health condition, including decisions about the correct medication for your condition, as well as prior to undertaking any specific exercise or dietary routine.

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