The other day I met with a new client who is turning 65 in November, just over two months from now. One of the first questions I asked him was, “Do you have your Medicare card?”. His answer was, “no”. With this bit of information I knew that he is not yet collecting Social Security – and this means he has to take some action to get enrolled in Medicare.
Most people I meet, who are turning 65, are already collecting Social Security, although the full age for collecting is 66. About 75% of people decide to start collecting as early as they can, which is when they turn 62. They get a smaller check if they decide to start receiving Social Security payments at 62 rather than 66, but lots of people have “retired” early, or lost their job, and they need the money sooner rather than later.
How you enroll in Medicare Part B depends on your current situation related to Social Security.
1) If you are receiving Social Security payments, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare A and B. Part B has a monthly premium, which will be deducted from your Social Security check at the start of the month in which you turn 65. Your Medicare card will be sent to you three months before your birthday month.
2) If you are not drawing Social Security payments, you will need to contact Social Security to tell them you want Part B. Part A has no premium, so you get this automatically.
You can enroll in Medicare on-line by going to SSA.gov. Or, you can call Social Security at 800-772-1213. You will also need to make arrangements to pay your Part B premium, which is $99.90 per month. You have to pay 3 months at a time when you first start your Medicare coverage, but you can set up automatic bank withdrawals to pay the premium each month.
You can sign up for Medicare Part B three months before you turn 65. If you wait to enroll in Part B until the month you turn 65, you will have to wait one month or more to get Part B.
If you are still working and have employer health insurance, you might not need to enroll in Medicare. If your employer has fewer than 20 employees, you must enroll in Medicare A and B (and pay the Part B premium).
Once you’ve enrolled in Part B, you will get your Medicare card. Your Medicare card has important information that is required when you go to sign up for a Medicare supplement, Part D plan, or a Medicare Advantage plan (with Part D included). Your Medicare claim number is usually your Social Security number with a letter after it. People who don’t use Medicare when they turn 65 will have different start dates for Part A and Part B.
Once you’ve got your Medicare card you need to choose your Medicare coverage. Will you have only Medicare? (A financially risky choice) Will you get a Medicare supplement and a stand-alone Part D plan? Will you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that includes Part D drug coverage? To get a brief overview of your Medicare choices, check out this video: Intro to Your Medicare Choices.