With your 65th birthday around the corner, you are getting ready to celebrate another year of life. For many people who live in the United States, turning 65 means that you become eligible for Medicare benefits. While some individuals are automatically enrolled in Medicare on this landmark birthday, the vast majority of people aren’t.
Medicare will start automatically for you if you’ve received Railroad Retirement Benefits or Social Security Benefits for at least 4 months before your 65th birthday. If you fit either of these criteria and receive benefit checks, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B.
If you don’t fit the above criteria, then you’ll have to enroll in Medicare on your 65th birthday.
When Can I Enroll?
Time is of the essence, and this statement rings especially true if you want Medicare benefits. There are three different enrollment periods during which you can enroll in Medicare for the first time: Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), General Enrollment Period (GEP), and Special Enrollment Period (SEP).
It’s important to familiarize yourself with the enrollment periods to avoid certain penalty fees.
The IEP spans seven months total: three full months before your 65th birthday, the entire month in which you turn 65, and three full months after your birthday month. If you miss the IEP, the GEP and SEP are other windows during which you can enroll.
The GEP runs annually from January 1st through March 31st. If you register during this time, your coverage begins on July 1st, though you might be penalized with enrollment fees.
The SEP is an eight-month period to sign up for Medicare coverage that starts the month after a qualifying life event and allows you to enroll for coverage without penalties. Changes in where you live, loss of current coverage, and contractual plan changes with Medicare are some, but not all, of the circumstances that trigger a SEP.
If you want to learn more about these enrollment periods, click here.
How Do I Enroll?
If you want to actively enroll in Medicare, you can sign up for Part A and/or Part B by doing any of the following:
- Apply online at ssa.gov
- Call the Social Security number at 800-772-121
- Visit your local Social Security office. Click here for a locator tool
- Mail a signed and dated letter to Social Security that includes your name, Social Security number, and the date you wish to be enrolled in Medicare
To protect yourself from incurring penalties should your application get lost, keep proof of when you tried to enroll in Medicare. If you apply online, print out the confirmation page. Write down names of representatives you speak to in person or on the phone, as well as the date of the conversation. If you mail in your application, use certified mail and obtain a return receipt.
Additional Enrollment Tips and Resources
Navigating the ins and outs of Medicare can feel like a big task because it’s not just a matter of signing up and automatically ending up with the plan which best fits your needs: there are many choices available to you. Here are some resources we’ve put together that can help you understand your options:
- Documents You Need to Apply for Medicare
- Choosing Between Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement: What’s Covered?
- Choosing the Right Medicare Advantage Plan: What is the difference between HMO and PPO?
- Preventing Medicare Fraud
Keep in mind that Medicare Parts A and B (also known as Original Medicare) often do not cover prescriptions and may not cover all your medical needs.
There are many options available to cover what Original Medicare does not. What you choose will vary depend on your unique situation. If it’s unclear which plan you should choose or you simply want to be sure you’re making the most informed decision, the Guided Medicare team is available to offer you their insight and expertise. Connect with us today.