How to Apply for Medicare
Sitting around and learning about Medicare is hardly anyone’s idea of a good time. But Medicare is an important federal program in which seniors need to be aware. Here’s a brief overview of what Medicare is, why it’s important and how you can apply.
After a person turns 65 years old, they’re automatically eligible for Medicare. Certain people under the age of 65 are also eligible. These include:
- those who have been receiving Social Security Disability for at least 24 months,
- those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- those with End-Stage Renal Disease
Note that even non-citizens are eligible for Medicare, as long as they qualify for Social Security or Railroad Retirement.
What Does Medicare Provide?
Medicare has four parts:
PART A – This is basically hospital insurance. Part A helps pay bills related to hospital visits, nursing facilities, and hospice care.
PART B – This is more like medical insurance. Part B pays for outpatient care such as doctor’s visits and physical therapy. Part B also helps pay for medical equipment and home health care.
Together, Part A and B are known as “Original Medicare.”
PART C – This Part offers the same coverage as Parts A and B. Only, instead of the coverage being provided by Medicare, coverage is instead provided by private insurance companies.
PART D – This is a plan with additional coverage for prescriptions. Some of the supplemental coverage is optional and might require extra premiums.
What’s the Advantage of Part C over Parts A & B?
Part C is known as the “Medicare Advantage Plan” – so what’s the advantage? Mainly, you’ll have additional benefits related to dental, vision and prescription drug coverage.
Part C can also be less expensive. Out-of-pocket costs can be lower than Original Medicare prices. Different Medicare Advantage plans have different rules about what you pay and what doctors you can see, so be sure and have a thorough understanding of any plan before signing up.
What are the Costs?
Original Medicare is a fee-for-service plan. When you use medical services, you first pay a deductible. Then, Medicare pays the Medicare-approved amount. You’re responsible for co-insurance and deductibles.
Monthly premiums and deductibles are determined based on your income. This table from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare can help you determine more exact amounts related to your specific situation.
How to Apply Online
The federal government has an Eligibility web page that is free and easy to use. You simply input information about your age, income and similar. Don’t worry – you can use the web page without having to input any identifying information such as your name or email address.
Applying for Medicare is done through the Social Security Administration. Simply go to www.socialsecurity.gov. There you’ll click on the Benefits tab. From there, you’ll go to “Apply Online for Medicare Only.” You’ll enter information about yourself like your name and address. You’ll also answer some questions about your health benefits such as any additional health insurance you have and any group health plans in which you are a member.
You can save your application at any time and come back to it later. When you’re done, you simply submit your application. Online is probably the easiest way to apply, but some states also allow you to apply in person at a Medicare office or over the phone.
What Does Coverage Start?
When coverage begins depends on when you apply. If you apply during the first three months of your Enrollment Period, coverage will start on the first day of the month in which your turn 65. If you apply during the month when you turn 65, coverage begins one month later. If you apply one month after you turn 65, coverage begins in two months. If you apply two or three months after you turn 65, coverage will start after three months.
Medicare isn’t nearly as complicated as many people think. If you apply online, you can get everything done in just a few hours. So don’t be intimidated or worried. For more information, check out Medicare.gov.