Having good solid health care coverage is important to nearly everyone. This is especially the case as you get older. Being enrolled in Medicare can help you to defray many of the costs of being in the hospital, as well as for the regular doctors’ services that you receive throughout the year.
For most people, it is necessary to wait until age 65 to apply for Medicare coverage – although there are some cases in which a qualifying disability or a chronic health condition may deem you to be eligible for this coverage prior to that age.
When Should You Apply for Medicare?
For most people, as you approach the age of 65, you will have a seven month window in which to enroll in Medicare. This time period begins three months prior to your birthday month, and it also includes the month of your 65th birthday. It also includes the three months following the month in which you turn 65.
Today, because so many people continue working into their 60s and beyond, you may still be covered by a group health insurance plan and have no need to apply for Medicare during your initial period of eligibility.
If this is the case, you will be able to apply for Medicare during a special enrollment period at a later date. This special enrollment period will begin either the month after your employment ends or the month after your group health insurance ends – whichever occurs first. Your special enrollment period will consist of an eight month time period in which to apply for Medicare Part A and / or Medicare Part B coverage.
If you just simply did not apply for Medicare either when you were initially eligible or during a special enrollment period, you will also be able to apply for Medicare coverage between January 1st and March 31 each year. This time period is known as Medicare’s general enrollment period.
If you apply for Medicare during this time and you are not applying because you are in your special enrollment period or your initial enrollment period, it is possible that you may be required to pay a higher premium due to your late enrollment.
Steps for Applying in Medicare Coverage
Some people will get Medicare Parts A and B automatically, and others will need to apply. There are several different ways to apply for Medicare, depending on your individual circumstances, as well as on the Medicare part that you are applying for.
If you are currently receiving retirement income benefits from either the Railroad Retirement Board or from Social Security, then you are already automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B.
Also, if you have ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), you will receive Medicare Parts A and B automatically, starting on the month that your disability benefits begin. Likewise, if you are not yet age 65 but you have a qualifying disability and you have been receiving disability benefits from either Social Security or from the Railroad Retirement Board for 24 months, you will also be automatically enrolled.
If you are not yet age 65, you are not automatically enrolled, and you do not have a qualifying disability, you will need to take the necessary steps to apply for Medicare coverage. In order to do so, you will need to contact the Social Security Administration approximately three months prior to your 65th birthday either via phone or online. You will also need to contact Social Security if you have been diagnosed with End Stage Renal Disease, are under age 65, and you wish to apply for Medicare.
If you reside in Puerto Rico and you already receive Social Security retirement income benefits – and you have already been automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A – you will still need to contact the Social Security Administration in order to enroll in Medicare Part B.
It is important to understand when you can and should apply for Medicare coverage. Depending on when you do so can save you from having to pay late enrollment penalties and can get you the coverage that you need to pay for the rising cost of health care today and in the future.