If number 65 is getting closer, it’s time to start thinking about applying for Medicare! While there is a lot to learn about the parts of Medicare, the enrollment process is relatively simple. Today, we’ll review the five steps you should take when beginning your Medicare journey.
Step 1: Mark Your Calendar
Did you know you can get a penalty if you don’t enroll in Medicare when you first become eligible? You won’t be penalized if you have other creditable coverage in place, but if you don’t, the penalties can quickly add up and increase your monthly premiums.
To avoid this, mark your calendars three months before the month of your 65th birthday. This is when your Initial Enrollment Period begins. For example, if your birthday is on February 21, you can enroll on November 1. Your IEP will end three months following your birthday, which means you have a 7-month window to enroll.
We do not recommend waiting until the very end of your Initial Enrollment Period because there are other types of coverage you will likely want to have in place as well. Starting the process early helps ensure you don’t have a lapse in coverage.
Step 2: Research Your Options
You can begin learning about Medicare long before you apply. We highly recommend getting familiar with how Medicare works so that you are not rushed to make decisions during the enrollment process. If you’re going to continue to work past the age of 65 and have a group health plan, you may not even want to enroll in Part B until you retire.
If you have a financial planner, it’s also a good idea to seek their advice before transitioning to Medicare. They can help you make decisions about your social security benefits and give you a timeline for when to stop contributing to your Health Savings Account (HSA) if you have one. Once you’re enrolled in Medicare, you cannot contribute to an HSA.
Step 3: Enroll in Medicare Part A and B
If you are already receiving Social Security or railroad retiree benefits, you will automatically be enrolled in Part A and Part B. If you choose to continue coverage on a group health plan, you will need to decline your enrollment into Part B. Most people choose to enroll in Part A even if they have other coverage since most Medicare beneficiaries receive premium-free Part A.
If you aren’t already receiving retirement benefits or had chosen to delay coverage in the past, you’ll need to enroll in Part B yourself. There are three ways to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B:
- Apply online at SSA.gov.
- Schedule an appointment at your local Social Security office.
- Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY call 1-800-325-0778)
After submitting your application, you’ll wait for your Medicare card to arrive in the mail.
Step 4: Schedule an Appointment with an Advisor
This step can be done before you finish your Part A and B enrollment; you don’t have to wait for your Medicare card to arrive.
It’s important to work with a licensed insurance agent to enroll in the right supplemental coverage. Of course, you can do all of the research and enrollment yourself, but a Medicare advisor will make that process much more simple.
Part of an agent’s job is to educate you on all of your options: Medicare supplements, Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans, Part D prescription drug plans, and other ancillary products like Dental, Vision, Hearing plans, cancer policies, life insurance, long-term care coverage, and more. An advisor will tell you what each type of plan offers and then help you choose the one that’s right for you.
Working with any agent will be helpful, but choosing an independent agent will give you more options. An independent agent contracts with many insurance companies, which means they can compare plans and rates across many carriers. Your other option is to work with a captive agent who sells only one company’s products and will not compare their products to others on the market.
The best part? Medicare advisors do not charge you to work with them. There is no additional cost to help you enroll in Medicare products. They will be paid a commission by the insurance company instead – yet another reason to work with an independent agent who has no loyalties to any one company!
Step 5: Submit Applications for Additional Coverage
Once you’ve chosen your insurance products, your agent will submit the application on your behalf.
You’re finished! You have completed all the steps to ensure you have adequate healthcare coverage now and in the future.
If you’re ready to start your Medicare journey, give our office a call today.