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When and How to Apply for Medicare

Over 65? Covered by a Group Health Plan? When Should You Apply For Medicare?

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Almost 65? Over 65? Covered by a group health plan still? Not yet enrolled in Social Security? Below are the guidelines as to when and how you should apply for Medicare.

When Should You Apply for Medicare?

The basic rule: apply for Medicare when you turn 65. There is an open enrollment period which starts 3 months prior to the month you turn 65 and extends 3 months past the month you turn 65 (a 7 month window).

Below are details on how to apply based on your personal circumstances such as whether you are already receiving social security, not yet receiving social security, or over 65 and still covered by a group health plan.

Here’s how it all works:

If You Already Receive Social Security Benefits...

If you already receive Social Security benefits (or benefits from the Railroad Retirement system) then you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare (both part A and part B - See Medicare Basics for details) starting the first day of the month you turn age 65. Your Medicare card will be mailed to you about 3 months before your 65th birthday. (It will be mailed to the address on record with Social Security.)

You will automatically receive a package which contains important information about the decisions you need to make. For example, although eligible, you do not have to enroll in Part B, which requires you to pay a monthly premium. You need to take the time to learn about Medicare Part B to determine if you should sign up; if you don’t sign up initially it may cost you more to sign up later.

In the package is a Welcome to Medicare Booklet which I found contains clear, concise information about both Medicare Part A and B, and can help you make a decision as to whether you should remain enrolled in Medicare Part B.

If You Are Not Yet Receiving Social Security Benefits...

If you are not yet receiving Social Security benefits (or benefits from the Railroad Retirement system) you are eligible to sign up for Medicare 3 months prior to the month you turn 65, but your enrollment will not happen automatically. You must call or apply online - details below. It is to your benefit to sign up for Medicare Part A as soon as you are eligible, even if you still have coverage through a group health plan.

Although eligible, you do not have to enroll in Part B, which requires you to pay a monthly premium. You need to take the time to learn about Medicare Part B to determine if you should sign up; if you don’t sign up initially it may cost you more to sign up later. The links under the How To Apply section below contain information that can help you make this decision.

How To Apply For Medicare

  • You can apply online or sign up by calling the social security office at 1-800-772-1213.

-If You Are Still Working, Over 65 and Covered by Group Health Insurance...

As stated previously, at 65 you should apply for Medicare Part A even if you continue to have coverage through a group health plan. If you did not apply for Medicare yet, do so as soon as possible.

Once you are over 65 there is a Special Enrollment Period provided to allow you to add Medicare Part B at such time as your Group Health Plan benefits subside or go away.

-If You Have Medicare Part A and Now Need To Start Part B...

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