My Medicare card will likely arrive in the mail.
If you are turning 65 and are already receiving Social Security benefits, you should get a Medicare card in the mail about three months before your birthday. If you are not receiving Social Security at age 65, you usually need to contact Social Security to sign up for Medicare. You can do this starting three months before your birthday month. If you do not receive a card automatically, contact your local Social Security office.
Since I’m still working and have employer insurance, I don’t need to worry about Medicare until I retire.
Everyone turning 65 should understand how their employer’s insurance works with Medicare. People generally start Medicare Part A (hospital coverage) at age 65 since it is premium-free for most people. However, you may need to decide whether to delay enrollment in Part B (doctor coverage) and Part D (prescription drug coverage). The decisions will depend on how your employer’s coverage works with Medicare and whether both the employer’s medical and prescription drug coverage is “creditable,” or as good as Medicare’s. Talk to your employer’s benefits administrator and Social Security to avoid problems.
The government doesn’t care when I enroll in Medicare – in fact, the later the better!
Medicare starts at 65. It’s not like Social Security full retirement, which starts at an age determined by your birth date. Medicare is health insurance, and insurers set rules about when people enroll. Medicare has enrollment deadlines and lifetime penalties if you miss them. It is your responsibility to keep track of your deadlines; if you are not in the Social Security system already, individualized information is not going to arrive from Medicare.
Since I’m on COBRA, I don’t need to sign up for Medicare Part B.
Being on COBRA doesn’t count as actively working. To delay Part B enrollment without penalty, you or a spouse must be actively working and receiving coverage under the group health plan. Plus, if you’re already on COBRA and your Medicare starts, turning 65 will change your status. Your COBRA will end. You will not qualify to delay your Part B penalty-free. You may even have a delay in the start of your Part B and there could be a significant lapse in your coverage.
If I don’t want to take Medicare, I can purchase individual private insurance.
Individual insurance products cannot be sold to you once you are Medicare-eligible, so this is not an option.
Whatever health insurance you are using before you enter Medicare eligibility – an employer or union plan, veterans, state high-risk pool, Medicaid, or an individual policy – you need to talk to your plan, benefits administrator, or case manager to find out if your coverage will coordinate with Medicare.
I don’t want to pay for Part B, so I’ll just take Part A and get a supplement for the rest.
Medigap supplements and Medicare Advantage plans all require that you have Part A and Part B in order to qualify for purchase or enrollment. You may, however, enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan if you have only Part A or Part B (or both).
I won’t draw Social Security until I turn 66 so I will wait until then to sign up for Medicare.
Medicare and Social Security are two different programs. Medicare starts at age 65, regardless of when you draw Social Security. If you wait until you turn 66 to take care of your Medicare, you could find yourself with financial penalties and coverage gaps.
Medicare Advantage plans are the same as Medicare supplements.
Medicare Advantage plans are an alternative to the traditional way of getting Medicare benefits administered by the government. These plans are offered by private companies and can include prescription drug coverage. Medicare supplements, in contrast, are additional medical coverage that you can buy if you want to fill the gaps in what traditional Medicare covers. You can have one or the other but it does not work to have both. In fact, assembling the best Medicare for you depends on a lot of personal factors ranging from your health and your pocketbook to what other coverage you might have and what coverage your doctor accepts. A SHIBA volunteer can assist you in making your decisions.
My neighbor loves her drug plan so it will probably work for me.
How well a particular drug plan works for you depends on the prescription drugs you take and whether the plan covers your drugs and how it treats your drugs (there may be rules about quantity limits or requiring you to try other drugs before the plan pays for a preferred drug). There is quite a lot of difference among Medicare prescription drug plans. The Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) program can help you find out which ones cover your list the best.
Medicare is the best source of all information.
Part A or Part B eligibility and enrollment questions are answered by Social Security. In fact, if you delay Part B enrollment because you have other coverage, confirm your decision with Social Security to avoid a late enrollment penalty. Document your call. Call 800-772-1213 (toll-free) or visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
Part C (Medicare Advantage) and Part D (prescription drug coverage) questions go to Medicare. Call 800-633-4227 (toll-free) or visit www.medicare.gov.
For personalized help in your community, contact SHIBA. Call 800-722-4134 (toll-free) and use the telephone keypad to enter your ZIP code. Your call will be routed to a trained volunteer in your area.
If you are employed or have retiree or union coverage – or any other medical coverage through a government agency or program – contact your benefits administrator to see what happens when you become Medicare eligible.
If you get wrong information from federal officials (Social Security or Medicare) and you documented the conversation (date, name of person you spoke with, and the key information provided), you may get relief from any resulting problems or penalties. This is less likely to happen if you get wrong information from anyone else!