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It’s not uncommon for new beneficiaries to be unsure of when to sign up for Medicare, as well as how to apply for Medicare. Below, we’ll answer the most common questions we get from our clients that are just aging in.
When Do I Have to Sign Up for Medicare
Many different factors determine when you have to sign up for Medicare. Typically, the best time to sign up is when you first turn 65 years old.
If you’re collecting Social Security, you’ll automatically be enrolled in both Part A and Part B. If you’re not receiving Social Security, then you’ll want to sign up manually during your Initial Enrollment Period.
Three months before your 65th birthday, your Initial Enrollment Period window will start. Your IEP is a once in a lifetime enrollment window that you don’t want to miss.
If you do happen to miss it, you’ll have another opportunity to enroll during another enrollment period. However, you could get a penalty for not signing up when you first become eligible. The only way around the penalty is if you have creditable coverage.
Do You Have to Sign Up for Medicare When You’re 65?
As long as you have creditable coverage, you don’t have to enroll in Medicare when you are 65. Technically, you don’t have to sign up for Medicare at all if you don’t want to. Medicare is not mandatory, but it is important to be aware that if you choose to sign up later without creditable coverage, you’ll incur penalties that you may be stuck with for the rest of your life.
The most common reason a new beneficiary may delay enrolling in Medicare is that they have coverage through their employer. However, not all group coverage is considered creditable coverage. The size of your employer will determine if the coverage is creditable.
When to Sign Up for Medicare Part A?
As stated above, if you’re collecting Social Security benefits, you will automatically be enrolled in Part A and Part B. If you’re not automatically enrolled, the best time to enroll in Part A is during your Initial Enrollment Period.
As long as you worked a minimum of ten years, Part A will be premium-free. Even if you’re still working, it makes sense to join Part A to help keep your out-of-pocket medical costs to a minimum.
When to Sign Up for Medicare Part B?
If you’re retiring, the best time to enroll in Part B is during your IEP. For those still working past 65, check with your health administrators whether your employer coverage is creditable.
If it is, you can enroll in Part B when you retire or leave your group health plan. You’ll be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period when you can enroll without any penalties. If your group health plan is not considered creditable coverage, then you should register for Part B during your IEP.
If you missed your IEP, the next enrollment window you can enroll in Part A and Part B is the General Enrollment Period.
Common Reasons Beneficiaries Delay Part B Enrollment
- Health insurance through a previous employer (such as COBRA or retiree health insurance)
- To remain with spousal coverage, if available, since Part B premiums are based on income reported two years prior (IRMAA – Income Related Monthly Adjusted Amount)
- Union coverage
- Employer coverage
We always advise our clients to contact their employer or union benefits administrator before delaying Part A and Part B to learn more about how their insurance works with Medicare. Employer coverage may require that you enroll in both Part A and Part B to receive full coverage.
FAQs About When to Sign Up for Medicare
How long before I turn 65 should I sign up for Medicare?
Can you sign up for Medicare at any time?
When can I sign up for Medicare Supplement insurance?
When is the last date to sign up for a Medicare Supplement?
When do I sign up for Medicare Advantage?
How to Apply for Medicare
Medicare enrollment is easier than ever. Once you meet eligibility requirements, you are ready to choose from a variety of plans in which to enroll.As we mentioned earlier, some beneficiaries can receive automatic enrollment, and some have to apply manually.
There are three ways to apply for Medicare Part A and Part B:
- Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
- Fill out an online application at SSA.gov
- Visit a local Social Security office in person
If you have previously been a railroad employee, you can enroll in Medicare by contacting the Railroad Retirement Board, Monday – Friday, from 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM at 1-877-772-5772.
Medicare applications generally take between 30-60 days to obtain approval.
Applying for Medicare Online
Applying for Medicare online is a quick and easy process on the Social Security website, taking approximately ten minutes. After you have applied for Medicare online, you can check the status of your application and/or appeal, request a replacement card, and print a benefit verification letter.
Once you apply for Part B, give us a call so we can help you choose a supplement plan to cover what Medicare doesn’t.
If you’re not comfortable applying for Medicare online, you can do so over the phone.
Applying for Medicare by Phone
Just like applying online, applying for Medicare by phone is easy. You can contact a representative at 1-800-772-1213.
Depending on the volume of calls, there might be a wait time. If the wait time is above average, you can schedule an appointment to have a representative call you.
The only downfall with applying for Medicare by phone is that it can take longer compared to online. If you’re ahead of the game and start well before your birthday, then applying by phone shouldn’t cause any issues. If you do not wish to apply online or by phone, you can choose to do so in person.
Applying for Medicare in Person
Applying for Medicare with Employer Coverage
Can you still enroll in Medicare coverage, even if you’re not yet seeking retirement? The answer is yes! Medicare coverage can coincide with your group coverage through your employer. If your employer has more than 20 employees, your group coverage will work as your primary insurance, and Medicare will be your secondary insurance.
You can choose to apply for Part B, or you can wait until leaving your employer group coverage. For more information on the benefits of obtaining Medicare while receiving group coverage through work, give our team a call, and we can review the pros and cons.
Sometimes beneficiaries don’t want to apply for Part B when they initially become eligible because of employer health coverage. Should you lose your health insurance through your employer, or if you prefer to switch over to Medicare, you can apply any time while receiving coverage through your employer.
What Documents Do I Need to Apply for Medicare?
To begin the application process, you’ll need to ensure you have the following documentation to prove identity:
- A copy of your birth certificate
- Your driver’s license or state I.D. card
- Proof of U.S. citizenship or proof of legal residency
You may need additional documents as well. Make sure to have on hand:
- Your Social Security card
- W-2 forms if still active in employment
- Military discharge documents if you previously served in the U.S. military before 1968
- Information about current health insurance types and coverage dates
If you are already enrolled in Part A and have chosen to delay enrollment in Part B, you will need to complete additional forms (listed below).
- 40B form: This form allows you to apply for enrollment into Part B only. The 40B form must be included in your online application or mailed directly to the Social Security office.
- L564 form: Your employer must complete this form if you delayed Part B due to creditable group coverage through a said employer. The completed L564 form also must be included in your online application or mailed directly to the Social Security office.
Medicare Application Forms
FAQs About How to Apply for Medicare
Can I sign up for Medicare online?
Is it difficult to sign up for Medicare online?
What happens after I register for Medicare online?
Once you have submitted your application, it will be reviewed by Medicare to ensure all the information is accurate and complete. You should double-check your contact information to make sure it is correct. This is important to ensure prompt delivery of your Identification Card, as well as in the event Medicare needs to contact you about your enrollment.
After your application is received and processed, a letter will be mailed to you with the decision. If you encounter any questions or problems during the process, you can always contact Social Security for assistance.
Can I sign up for Medicare Easy Pay online?
What documents do I need to sign up for Medicare?
When do I get my Medicare card?
Is there a local Medicare office?
What documents do I need to sign up for Medicare?
Don’t Register for Medicare Alone
If you’re uncomfortable with applying for Medicare alone, we can help! Our services are completely free for you. If you would like an agent by your side when applying, contact us. We can walk you through setting up all your coverage, including Medicare, Medigap, Part D, and more.
Plus, when you use us to apply, you get unlimited support from our Client Service Team. That means if you have any issues with claims or appeals, we can help at no additional cost. You can compare rates online or give us a call today at the number above.