Medicare is a national or federal health insurance program whose eligibility depends on age and specific median conditions. Primarily, it covers healthcare costs of individuals at least 65 years old. Knowing how the program works, how to enroll, and the right time to do so will help you to avoid coverage gaps or penalties. Here is a guide to help you navigate the Medicare application process.
How To Sign Up for Medicare
These are the steps to follow to sign up for this health insurance program;
Determine Your Eligibility
As mentioned before, Medicare mainly covers older adults 65 years and above. This means that you can enroll once you reach this age, even before retirement. The program also covers people younger than 65 but with particular disabilities like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), kidney disease, and end-stage renal disease.
Understand the Medicare Parts
After confirming your eligibility for this health insurance program, you need to understand its parts and the different healthcare aspects it covers. This information will help you choose the part that suits you best. Medicare consists of four parts:
- Part A covers hospital insurance
- Part B covers medical insurance
- Part C is majorly in private insurance companies and offers Medicare Advantage.
- Part D offers prescription drug coverage.
You can enjoy automatic enrollment in the original Medicare (Part A and Part B) if you have been receiving your Railroad Retirement Board or social security retirement benefits for approximately four months before turning 65. Another group that falls under this category is those younger than 65 and who have received Social Security disability benefits for at least two years.
If you do not qualify for automatic enrollment, you can sign up for Medicare using any of the following three ways:
This is the fastest method to enroll for Medicare since it takes less than 10 minutes. Visit the Social Security website and fill in the details or visit this website.
Call Social Security
Alternatively, you can contact social security via 800-772-1213 or TTY 800-325-0778
Visit the social security office
Thirdly, you can visit the social security office in your local area and complete the application in person. It may take some time because you have to queue. In some states, the social security administration requires people to make an appointment before visiting the offices.
When To Enroll For Medicare
It is important to note that the four Medicare plans have different enrollment durations.
Initial Enrollment Period
Older adults who are not automatically enrolled in this program have a seven month-window to apply. This means that they can sign up three months before their 65th birthday, on their birthday month, and three months after this month.
If you were born on the 1st day of the month, you should enroll either four months before your birth date or two months after. You will start to enjoy these insurance benefits on the 1st day of the month that you were born.
General Enrolment Period
This duration is for those who fail to apply during the initial enrollment period and do not qualify for the special enrollment period. General enrollment starts on 1st January and ends on 31st March every year. Note that you might incur higher premiums when you wait for this period.
Annual Enrollment Period
The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period or the open enrollment runs from 15th October to 7th December every year. It allows those who signed up for Medicare Part A and Part B and are unhappy with the plans to change and choose one that suits their health needs. If you adjust your insurance plan during the Medicare Annual Election Period, your new coverage will begin on 1st January the following year.
Special Enrolment Period
Unusual circumstances, such as retiring after 65 and relocating, might allow you to enroll in Medicare for the first time or change your plan. The desire to choose a 5-star Medicare plan can also qualify you for the special enrollment period. In this case, the new insurance plan will cover you from the 1st day of the following month.
Medigap Open Enrollment Period
This is the six-month duration that starts on your 65th birthday, where you can purchase Medigap policies available in your state. It applies to the beneficiaries who signed up for Part B. It is crucial to know that you can benefit from this enrollment period despite having health issues. The insurance will start to cover your healthcare costs on the 1st day of the subsequent month after you purchase the Medigap policy.
In summary, starting your Medicare journey requires you to make informed decisions. The enrollment process takes place at different times depending on your chosen Medicare part. Ensure that you understand these enrollment periods to avoid penalties and choose a plan that suits your health needs.