Signing up for Medicare
In most cases, you have several ways to sign up for Original Medicare benefits.
- Apply on the Social Security website. www.ssa.gov
- Visit your local Social Security office-NOTE this has not been an option for many months now, SSA has eliminated face to face meetings.
- Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778)
- If you worked for a railroad, call the Railroad Retirement Board at 1-877-772-5772
- Complete an Application for Enrollment in Part B (CMS-40B)– If you have had an Employer Group Plan since the month of your 65th birthday.
What Is a Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)?
You can sign up for Medicare during your seven-month Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which begins three months before you turn 65, includes your birth month and continues for another three months.
If you’ve turned 65 or within your IEP and are already receiving Social Security benefits, the Social Security Administration will notify you if you’ve been automatically enrolled in Original Medicare.
Original Medicare Part A and Part B
If you’re 65 years or older and are a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S., you’re likely eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A (hospital insurance), assuming that you paid enough Medicare taxes (10 years’ worth) while working. Medicare Part B (medical insurance) requires paying a premium, and you therefore have the option to decline coverage. However, if you decide later that you do want Medicare Part B, you may have to pay a penalty for as long as you have it. You may also be eligible to sign up during a Special Enrollment Period if you are eligible. If you don’t sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period and don’t qualify for special enrollment, you
can sign up for either Medicare Part A or Part B during a General Enrollment Period, which runs each year from January 1 to March 31. Keep in mind your coverage won’t begin until July 1 of that year, and you may be subject to late enrollment penalties if you wait too long.
When should you join a Medicare Advantage Plan
or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan?
The best time to join a Medicare health or drug plan is when you first get Medicare. Signing up when you’re first eligible can help you avoid paying a lifetime Part D late enrollment penalty. If you miss your first chance, generally you have to wait until fall for Medicare’s annual Open Enrollment Period (October 15–December 7) to join a plan. During this time each year, you can also drop or switch your plan coverage.
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