Most people begin to qualify for Medicare at age 65. If you are about to turn 65, you are the next person to join the category of Medicare beneficiaries. Here’s what you need to know to be prepared.
You Have a Set Deadline to Enroll in Medicare
The first time you can sign up for Medicare is called the Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Your Initial Enrollment Period lasts 7 months. It includes:
- The 3 months before the month you turn 65
- The month you turn 65
- The 3 months after the month you turn 65
You can find your Initial Enrollment Period dates here. For most people, this is the best time to sign up for Medicare. Enrolling in Medicare coverage during your Initial Enrollment Period can avoid late enrollment penalties.
You may be able to delay Medicare Part B
Most people get Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) without paying a premium because they or a spouse worked and paid taxes for at least 10 years. Part B (medical insurance) has a monthly premium that for 2022 is from $170.10 to $578.30, depending on income.
You may be able or want to delay enrollment in Part B if you have other health care coverage, such as coverage from an employer or union. If you defer Part B, you must qualify for a Special Enrollment Period to avoid a late enrollment penalty. If you have coverage through an employer, you can also choose to delay enrollment in Part A, especially if you want to continue contributing to a health savings account (HSA).
There are two ways to get Medicare
Medicare offers you two ways to get your benefits:
- Original Medicare (Parts A and B), the traditional way
- Medicare Advantage (Part C), an alternative to Original Medicare
Original Medicare is run by the Federal government. Medicare Advantage plans are provided by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. They must provide all of the same benefits as Parts A and B of Original Medicare. Many Medicare Advantage plans include additional benefits, such as coverage for prescription drugs, dental care, vision, hearing, fitness, and more.
Medicare Does Not Cover Prescription Drugs, Dental and Other Services
Original Medicare does not include coverage for prescription drugs and other health items. To get prescription drug coverage, you can buy a stand-alone prescription drug plan (Part D) or choose a Medicare Advantage plan that includes drug coverage.
You generally don’t need additional coverage if you choose a Medicare Advantage plan, since most come with prescription drug coverage included.
Is it mandatory to get Medicare?
Medicare isn’t mandatory, but if you decide not to enroll at age 65 and don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, it could cost you dearly. Medicare Parts A, B, and D have late enrollment penalties, which can add up quickly. If you’re thinking about not signing up for Medicare, take some time to think carefully and learn about all of your options. Generally, it’s a good idea to enroll at age 65 if you don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.
You May Qualify for Help with Medicare
Several programs offer financial assistance with Medicare premiums and other costs. We encourage you to review them, even if you think you might not qualify.
- The Medicare Savings Program
- Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
- Extra Help Program
Other programs may also be available in your state, and you should check with your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) office to learn more.
Plan Ahead Before You Turn 6
Don’t let Medicare enrollment take you by surprise. Use these 6 tips to start learning about the basics of Medicare so you can make an informed decision when it’s time.