When should I apply for Medicare and how?

All eligible seniors should enroll for Medicare, even if they are not ready to retire. Part A does not have a premium for those who are insured and covers hospital care as well as several other services. Because it does not have a cost, most seniors enroll in Part A but might defer from applying for Part B, which does come with its own premium. The two other parts of Medicare, Parts C and D, also come with their own premiums, though not every senior enrolls in these plans. Part D covers prescription drug plans that help cover the cost of medications up to a certain limit. Part C involves Medicare Advantage Plans.

When to apply
Seniors reach Medicare eligibility at the age of 65. Some will be automatically enrolled and receive a Medicare card in the mail upon their 65th birthday. There is a seven-month initial enrollment period when seniors should sign up for Original Medicare (Parts A and B). This period includes the three months before the month of their 65th birthday, their birthday month and the three months following. If seniors do not enroll during this period, they may face late penalty fees later on.

In addition, there is an open enrollment period every year that runs from Jan. 1 through March 31. Coverage begins in July for those who sign up during the General Enrollment Period. Seniors will have to pay a higher premium for Part B if they sign up later than their initial enrollment period, unless they are eligible for the Special Enrollment Period. This increase is unlikely to decline over time.

It is possible to sign up for Medicare even if you are still covered by an employer’s healthcare insurance. Seniors can defer cash benefits and opt out of paying a premium for Part B until they are ready to start receiving benefits. Signing up later could result in a delay of Medicare medical insurance and prescription drug plan coverage. When you are ready to start receiving benefits, it is easy to apply for the change.

Special circumstances
There are certain situations where seniors will not be penalized for signing up for Part A and/or B later than the initial enrollment period. For example, if a senior is still covered under their employer’s insurance and wishes to defer Medicare until they leave their position or their benefits expire, they will not face a late penalty fee when they do sign up. The Special Enrollment Period begins the month after employment or healthcare benefits end – whichever comes first – and continues for eight months.

How to apply
While Medicare is managed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, seniors enroll through the Social Security Administration. Signing up for Medicare is simple and convenient, and can be completed online. Because of the streamlined process, seniors do not need to go into a Social Security office to complete an application. According to the Social Security Administration, an online application takes about 10 minutes to complete.

The online application is for those who are not already enrolled in Medicare. The online process allows seniors to save time and money by avoiding a trip to the Social Security office. In addition, it is possible to check the status of an application online. Online applications also mean that seniors don’t need to make an appointment and can sign up anytime at their own convenience.

To enroll in Original Medicare, seniors simply need to head to the Social Security website and open an application.

To maximize your Senior Health Insurance benefits, visit MySeniorHealthPlan.com for quick, simple and easy information.

Pete Blasi