Signing up for Medicare may seem confusing at first, but once you understand the basics, the process is relatively simple. This article will explain the best way to sign up for Medicare. We will also discuss enrollment periods to help you avoid penalties.
How do I get started with Medicare?
You’re eligible for Medicare if you are a US citizen aged 65 (and above) or a permanent resident who has been living in the US continuously for the past five years or more. You’re also eligible for Medicare if you have been receiving disability benefits for 24 months.
The way to get started is to sign up for the two ‘parts’ of Medicare – Hospital (Part A) and Medical (Part B).
Do you need to sign up for Medicare proactively?
You will be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare Part A and B if you receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board () benefits when you turn 65.
What is the best way to sign up for Medicare?
Call or visit your local SSA office if you are not automatically enrolled in Original Medicare. The fastest way is to enroll online.
But if you are under RRB, call 1-877-772-5772 to sign up. You can also call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 or contact your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).
What documents do I need to apply for Medicare?
You will need:
- Your latest health insurance information
- Medicaid number (if applicable)
- Supporting documents if you are not a US citizen or eligible through your spouse
- Proof of employment or group health coverage
Gathering the above documents beforehand will ensure a smooth sign up process.
When is the best time to sign up for Medicare?
If you want to avoid late enrollment penalties, you should typically sign up for Medicare when you turn 65.
The best time to join Original Medicare is during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). But, if you missed your IEP and decide to join later (and have not had other creditable coverage), your premiums will be likely be higher the rest of your coverage period.
However, Medicare allows late enrollment in Part B without penalties if you have creditable health coverage from your current job (or your spouse’s job).
Here are other essential tips to enroll for Medicare:
- After losing job-sponsored insurance, you have 8 months to enroll and avoid penalties. Use CMS 40B form and CMS L564 when completing your application.
- If you have a low income, try applying for the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) and the Low Income Subsidy (LIS).
What is the best way to sign up for Medicare if you missed the Initial Enrollment Period?
You should enroll during these periods to avoid late enrollment penalties:
- General Enrollment Period (GEP) to join Part A or Part B.
- Annual Election Period (AEP) to join Part D (and Part C).
- Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to join Part B after health insurance through your employer
If you decide to change your coverage later, there are other enrollment periods that you can consider.
What happens after signing up for Medicare?
Once you enroll it may take anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks to process your application. After approval, you will receive your Medicare card with your full name, ID number, and coverage details.
You may want to consider supplemental coverage, however, you will only be able to sign up after you have enrolled in Medicare:
- Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan will help cover these out-of-pocket expenses.If you spend a lot on prescription drugs, you should consider adding a standalone prescription drug plan (PDP) or Part D coverage.
- Medicare Advantage plan, or Medicare Part C, is a bundled alternative to Original Medicare. These plans must at a minimum offer the same benefits as Original Medicare, but many included additional benefits – such as visual, dental, hearing, and Part D drug coverage.
If you are considering this supplemental coverage:
- The best time to sign up to a Medicare Supplement plan is the 6 months after first getting Part B. This period is the “guaranteed issue” period where your coverage is approved regardless of pre-existing conditions.
- There are penalties for delayed enrollment in Part D unless you have acceptable drug coverage.
- With Medicare Advantage, there is no penalty for a late signup. However, there are only certain periods during the year when you can sign up for Part C.
It’s important to understand the different methods to sign up for your Medicare coverage. The CoverRight team is here to help you understand these different sign up methods, and ensure you sign up in a timely fashion to avoid late enrollment penalties.