Medicare is a Government-sponsored healthcare plan designed to cover the healthcare expenses of US citizens under some conditions. Social security beneficiaries over 65 years will automatically enroll in a Medicare plan. Those not receiving Social Security benefits can enroll online or at the Social Security office. Enrolling in a Medicare plan is mostly a straightforward process. However, you must be aware of some things to streamline the Medicare sign-up process. Let us discuss them.
While US citizens over 65 years or older are eligible, people under 65 years with disabilities (such as Lou Gehrig's disease) and end-stage renal disease can enroll in the Medicare plan.
If you are not automatically enrolled, you can sign up for the Medicare plan three months before turning 65 years, and your coverage will begin as soon as you have turned 65 (that is from your birthday month). If you sign up later, your coverage will start accordingly.
You will be given seven months around your 65th birthday for signing into the Medicare plan, including three months before your birthday, your birthday month, and after three months of your birthday.
If you miss these seven months, you can sign up during Medicare's general enrollment period, but you may be penalized for late sign-up. The penalty can be avoided if you have continuous coverage from your employer's health insurance plan.
The general enrollment period differs from the annual open enrollment period, from January 1 to March 31. If you have enrolled during this period, the coverage will not begin until July 1st of your enrollment year, and you may have late penalties. Also, you are liable to pay any health expenses incurred when you are uncovered (before your coverage kicks in).
Those who are automatically enrolled and most people who sign up usually choose Medicare Part A (covers hospitals) and Part B (covers doctor visits) coverages. However, some people may delay buying Part B coverage because of having an employer health insurance plan. However, once your employer-offered health plan is over, you must enroll in Part B coverage. Delaying the enrollment could incur penalties.
It covers all benefits included in Part A and B and additional cost-sharing provisions. You must have Medicare Part A and Part B coverages to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. The enrollment period varies for specific situations. However, if you are signing up for Medicare for the first time during your initial enrollment period, it is also good to buy Part C coverage.
It covers prescription drugs. Late penalties may apply if you don't have drug coverage or other creditable prescription drug coverage (from an employer or union health insurance plan) for 63 days or more after your initial enrollment period.
It covers expenses of Medicare, co-pays, and deductibles do not cover. You will have six months after enrolling in Part B to sign up for supplemental coverage without medical underwriting or extra charge for preexisting conditions or other health problems. If you miss this period, supplemental coverage may cost more, or you may not be eligible to sign up, depending on your health condition.
If you don't sign up for a Medicare plan on time, you may incur late penalties, which vary according to the coverage you buy.
If you don't buy Part A during your initial enrollment period, you may have to pay 10% more of your monthly premium twice the period you didn't enroll.
Not signing into Part B during your initial enrollment period will cause a 10% increment in your monthly premium for every 12 months you didn't have Part B.
Not having drug coverage for 63 or more days after your initial enrollment period will incur a permanent penalty (which lasts until you have drug coverage), calculated as 1% multiplied by the number of months you went uninsured. For example, if you don't have drug coverage for 50 months, you will need to pay a 50% penalty.
Once you sign up for Medicare, you will receive a Medicare welcome kit, which explains how Part A and B coverages work and how to buy additional coverages.The date your coverage begins depends on when you enroll in Medicare:
|Enrollment Date||Beginning of Coverage|
|Before your 65th birthday month||Your 65th birthday month|
|Your 65th birthday month||One month after your 65th birthday|
|One month after your 65th birthday||Two months after you sign up|
|Two or three months after your 65th birthday||Three months after you sign up|
|During the general enrollment period||July 1|
|During a special enrollment period, which includes eight months and begins when you retire or lose employer coverage (whichever comes first)||The next month|
Knowing these things will help you make informed decisions about when you must sign up and what Medicare coverages you may need.