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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 will most likely be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A. If you are 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 have been automatically enrolled, you will 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 will not have to pay a monthly premium for Part A.
If you are 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 are drawing Social Security benefits before you turn 65, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B. If you are not taking your benefits, you will 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 2019 pay the standard $135.50 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 $189.60. 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 are currently working and receiving creditable coverage. However, if you do not have health coverage, and do not sign up for Part B in a timely fashion, you could face significant penalties.
For every 12 month period that you did not have your Part B, you will 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 2019 is $135.50, then you would have to pay an additional $13.55 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 will 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 do not have another form of health coverage, you need to sign up within three months of turning 65 to avoid penalties.
If you are 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.
For most people, signing up for Medicare Part A and Part B is quick and easy. If you are about to start Medicare, you may find our Medicare page to be a helpful resource.