Many people turning 65 are excited about finally being able to use Medicare. But how exactly do you get started? Here’s the check-list that we encourage all of our clients to consider as they turn 65.
Consider whether to enroll in Medicare Part A
Medicare Part A is Hospital Insurance and helps to cover costs if you are ever hospitalized. Most people should sign up for Medicare Part A when they turn 65, even if you’re still working and have health coverage through your employer. Why? Because Part A will help to pay for costs that your employer plan might not cover, meaning you could have fewer out-of-pocket expenses.
Remember seeing Medicare payroll tax deductions on your pay-stub every month? These are effectively pre-payments for your Medicare Part A. Most people who worked for at least ten years won’t have to pay anything for Medicare Part A when they enroll.
There’s an exception, though. If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA), you won’t be able to continue contributions after enrolling in Medicare, so you might want to consider holding off.
Decide whether to enroll in Part B
Medicare Part B is Medical Insurance and helps to cover costs when you visit the doctor, receive preventative care, and get immunizations.
If you don’t have other coverage, you’ll probably want to sign up for Part B at the same time you sign up for Part A.
If you do have other coverage, though -- perhaps through your employer or your spouse’s work -- you might want to consider deferring Part B. (Note, you can’t defer Part B enrollment if you get coverage through an employer with 20 employees or fewer.)
Even if you have employer coverage, though, you might want to consider enrolling in Part B and either a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan. Many people can find better benefits and save money through Medicare options, although you’ll want to run the numbers. We outlined the high-level comparisons to consider in this recent piece.
Note that if you defer enrolling in Part B without having other coverage, you’ll start to accrue penalties that you’ll need to pay when you eventually do sign up for Part B. Medicare late enrollment penalties can become significant; they amount to 10% for every full year you delay enrolling beyond your initial window.
When and how can you enroll?
You can sign up for Part A and / or Part B starting three months before the month in which you turn 65. Currently, you can sign up on the Social Security website here. Once you sign up, you’ll receive a Medicare Card in a few weeks, and your Medicare coverage will become effective on the 1st day of the month in which you turn 65. After you receive this card, you’ll be able to apply for a Medicare Supplement / Medigap plan or Medicare Advantage plan, if you’d like.