The Medicare insurance program can sometimes be pretty confusing, especially if you’re just starting out. One of the more complicated topics for many people is the application process. There are many elements to think about when it comes time for you to sign up. So, here are five tips to help you apply for Medicare.
1. Be familiar with the structure of Medicare
It’s helpful to have a general understanding of how Medicare works. Medicare consists of two main parts, including Part A, and Part B. However, there are two other programs that are also known as “parts” of Medicare.
Part A is coverage for your inpatient hospital needs, while Part B is coverage for outpatient care. Part C is an alternative way to obtain your Part A and Part B benefits through a private insurance company rather than the government. Most people refer to Part C as Advantage plans. Part D is coverage for your prescription medications.
Another insurance policy you can enroll in is a Medicare Supplement plan. Medicare Supplement plans also help pay for costs not covered by Medicare.
Understanding these basics before applying for Medicare is a great way to get started.
2. Know how to apply
Another thing to know is how to apply for Medicare. When the time comes, you will sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B through Social Security (SS). There are three main ways to apply.
First, you can choose to enroll online using the SS website. This is how most people sign up for Medicare, as it’s the most convenient option.
The second option is to apply by phone. This option is also simple and may be easier for you. Contact SS at 1-800-772-1213 and tell the representative you’d like to apply for Medicare.
The third option is to apply in person at your local SS office. You can visit the SS website to see the different office locations.
3. Understand your Initial Enrollment Period
The next thing to know is when to apply. Most people become eligible for Medicare around age 65 and sign up during their Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Your IEP is a 7-month window to sign up for Part A and Part B. It begins three months before your 65th birthday month and ends three months after.
You will have to wait for another valid enrollment period if you neglect to sign up during this enrollment period and don’t have other creditable coverage. Additionally, you will receive a lifetime financial penalty.
4. See if you can delay Medicare
If you plan to keep working past 65, it’s possible you can wait to sign up for Medicare later, depending on the size of your employer. If you work for a company with 20 or more employees and are covered under the company’s insurance, you don’t have to enroll in Medicare.
If your employer has less than 20 employees, you will want to register for Medicare during your IEP. Medicare will pay first, and employer insurance will be secondary.
5. Have a general idea of costs
Contrary to some beliefs, Medicare is not free. Having an idea of what your costs will be is a great way to prepare before applying. Generally, most people pay $0 each month for Part A due to having enough work credits. However, everyone must pay a monthly premium for Part B, which is $170.10 in 2022.
The costs of Medigap, Advantage, and Part D plans vary depending on different factors. For example, your zip code affects the cost of Medigap plan premiums. So, try your best to shop around beforehand, so you have an idea of what to expect. You’ll also want to consider Medigap insurance company ratings.
However, remember that if your income meets a certain threshold, you may have to pay more for your Part B and Part D premiums.
Preparing for Medicare and the application process can be intimidating. However, preparing ahead of time can help alleviate some of the stress. Be sure to know when to apply and the costs you may encounter on your Medicare journey. Set yourself up for success!
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