Turning 65 might seem like another birthday, but it is arguably the most important date In Medicare. For most of us, our 65th birthday is the first time you can apply for Medicare benefits and avoid penalties, delays in benefits and medical underwriting.
The key to successful navigating your Medicare benefits is preparation. Center for Medicare services provides you a 7-month window, 3 months prior to your 65th birth month and the 3 months following, during which you can elect to enroll in the Medicare benefits that best fit your situation. This is known as your Initial Election Period and during this time, you can enroll and select your benefits with no penalties or underwriting. Your evaluation will include determining your need for Medicare Parts A, B, C and D as well as a Medicare Supplement.
Fifty-Seven percent of the Medicare eligible will automatically be enrolled in Parts A and B because they are receiving Social Security payments. For those that are not receiving benefits from Social Security, you will need to proactively enroll in Medicare Parts A and/or B as well as other benefits. You will not be notified and failing to apply during your eligibility could result in delays, penalties and underwriting.
If you are working past 65, eligible for Tricare for Life, or other retirement benefits, you will want to understand the options and procedures to opt for these benefits or weigh other options. It is important to determine what plans and benefits are best for you regarding medical care and financial resources.
If working past 65, you will want to determine if enrolling in Medicare is required or not. Simply, if you work for an employer with less than 20 employees, you will need to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B as they will be your primary health benefits. You would then either elect to stay on your health plan as secondary coverage or enroll in Medicare Advantage or a Medicare supplement and a stand-alone Part D plan.
If your employer has over 20 employees, you can elect to stay on the group plan and you will later be eligible for a Special Election Period, which will allow you enrollment into Medicare A,B,C and D as well as a Medicare supplement with no penalties, delays or medical underwriting. However, should you desire to go on Medicare, despite the availability of group benefits, you have that right and can elect to enroll in Medicare during your IEP or later SEP.
There are other pitfalls of not preparing for Medicare. Things like avoiding COBRA benefits after 65 since it is not recognized as creditable coverage for Part B and you could face penalties for not enrolling when first eligible. Also, if you participate in an H.S.A. after 65 and enroll in Medicare, you will lose your tax deduction for your H.S.A. contributions.
I will be covering enrollment into Medicare, selecting plans for your supplement benefits, managing and utilizing your Medicare benefits, paying for your benefits and explaining IRMAA at the Back to School Night event on October 3, 2019.
John Norce is the president of Medicare Portal. Based in Northern Virginia, Norce works with individuals to help them navigate the waters of enrolling in Medicare.