As you near the age of 65, it’s important to learn a little bit about the Medicare rules,so that you don’t end up paying any penalties. If you’ve worked and paid Medicare taxes, you may be able to apply for Medicare benefits and to do that, you’ll need to learn about the enrollment periods.
When you first sign up for Medicare Parts A and B, you have a 7-month enrollment period that begins 3 months before you turn 65 years old. If you miss that enrollment period, you can still sign up between January 1st and March 31st, but you may have to pay a penalty.
How do you know if you’ve contributed enough in Medicare taxes to qualify for Medicare? If you’ve paid enough taxes to earn 40 credits, you have contributed enough to the federal government to qualify for Medicare. That is equal to about 10 years of work and it only applies to Part A of Medicare, which is the part that covers hospitalization, skilled nursing facilities, some home health services, and hospice care. If you’re still not sure that you qualify, just call the Social Security office at 800-772-1213 and ask them. The good news is that if you qualify, you won’t need to pay any premiums for the Part A portion.
There’s also a little good news regarding the other parts of Medicare including Part B, which is outpatient care and medical equipment, and Part D, which is prescription drug coverage. You won’t need any credits to qualify for those parts of Medicare, but you will have to pay a premium. Parts B and D only require that you be over the age of 65 and either be an American citizen or a legal resident who’s lived in the United States for at least five years.
One place to go for questions about Medicare is to call the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at 800-633-4227. You can also get a lot of information on their website at Medicare.gov where you can compare health and drug plans in Buffalo. You can also find out which medications are covered under various plans. A New York based advocacy group, called the Medicare Rights Center, has a free hotline number where you can ask questions about Medicare, including questions about enrollment, at 800-333-4114. Every state has a federally funded State Health Insurance Assistance program (SHIP) to provide counseling to its residents about health insurance. In New York, the program is called the Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Program (HIICAP), which is administered through the New York State Office for the Aging department. You can also call the HIICAP hotline number at 800-701-0501, where you will get a prompt to be transferred to the local office in Erie County for Buffalo residents. Get a good start with information about Medicare by scrolling through information on the Medicare.gov website, but also be a little cautious about making sure that the information is the most current information. Especially around enrollment times, there can be a lag in updating the websites. It’s worth a phone call either directly to the insurance provider or to Medicare to make sure that the information is the most current and up to date.
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