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How and when to apply for Medicare

by Busines Newswire
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Most people choose to sign up for Medicare benefits when they become eligible, usually when they turn 65. During the enrollment period, most people sign up for hospital insurance under Part A and medical insurance under Part B. Here’s what you should know about signing up for Medicare.

How to sign up for Medicare for the first time

It’s important to sign up for coverage when your birthday is approaching. The enrollment period for new Medicare applicants begins three months before your 65th birthday and lasts for the three months after the month you turn 65. For an applicant with a birthday that falls on the first of the month, the 7-month enrollment period begins when you’ll you turn 65 in four months and ends two months after your 65th birthday.

The enrollment time frame is different for anyone with a birthday that falls on the first of the month. Here’s an example of an applicant with a birthday at the beginning of June. The enrollment for this applicant runs from February through August. For a person who signs up in February through April, the coverage will start at the beginning of May.

What you should know about Medicare penalties

Some people have medical insurance an employer provides that’s similar to Medicare plans. If someone about to turn 65 doesn’t have medical insurance an employer provides, you should make sure to sign up for coverage during the enrollment period. A penalty for late enrollment will be added to the monthly Medicare premium you pay. The penalty is based on the length of time you don’t have medical insurance.

Some people may not qualify for a premium-free Medicare Part A plan. You could qualify for Medicare Part A without paying a premium under one of these conditions:

  • You qualify to receive benefits for a disability or an employer retirement plan
  • You are already receiving retirement or disability benefits
  • You get benefits from Railroad Retirement
  • You qualify for Medicare before you reach 65

If you are 65 or older and meet certain requirements, you may not have to pay a monthly premium for medical coverage, and penalties wouldn’t apply. You may not have to pay a premium if your spouse or a former spouse paid taxes for Medicare while they were employed, usually for at least ten years.

Some people qualify for Medicare special enrollment periods

Medicare recipients who have a Medicare Advantage Plan, also referred to as Medicare Part C, may be eligible to make changes to their coverage in a special enrollment period. Under special circumstances, it may be possible to make changes to your current coverage. Here are the circumstances that may allow you to qualify for a special Medicare enrollment:

When you move, and your new address isn’t in the same service area, you may be qualified to make changes. If you still live in the same area and your plan has different options that would suit your needs better, you could change your plan. Other circumstances for changing your plan may include being discharged from a long-term care facility, either a rehab hospital or nursing home, or moving back to the United States after residing in a foreign country.

Some people lose coverage when they no longer qualify for Medicaid or if they retire or leave their employer and no longer have health insurance. Another circumstance in which people may be able to change their plan is involuntary circumstances. An example would be the company no longer offers the plan you chose. You could also qualify for a special enrollment if you drop coverage in a different Medicare plan.

Opportunities for different coverage could qualify you, including:

You prefer to enroll in a plan with more comprehensive coverage that a credit union or employer offers.

You’re enrolling in a Veteran’s Administration plan or Tricare.

You enroll in a medical plan especially for elderly recipients.

You may qualify for a different Medicare plan during a special enrollment period if your Medicare Advantage or prescription plan runs out and isn’t renewed.

Here are some circumstances that qualify recipients for special enrollment:

  • Eligibility for Medicaid and Medicare
  • Extra help for prescription drugs
  • Enrollment in a state-funded prescription drug plan or losing coverage
  • A trial period after enrolling in Medicare Advantage and dropping Medigap
  • You have a serious disability and qualify for a special needs plan
  • An error by a federal employee may qualify you for enrollment
  • You weren’t informed you were losing prescription drug coverage that’s comparable to Medicare

Although many people retire and collect Social Security when they turn 62, Medicare coverage isn’t an option until you turn 65. However, if you have a disability or chronic health condition, you may qualify. In other cases a person receiving Social Security disability payments is usually enrolled after receiving payments for 24 months.