Working with seniors every day I can tell you first hand that Medicare is confusing for almost everyone who is new to Medicare or about to qualify for Medicare. Here is a quick guide to help you understand how to sign up for the new benefits you are entitled to.
To start with you must figure out if you qualify for Medicare. Medicare Part A is hospital/ inpatient coverage. If you worked in the United States for over 40 quarters (or 10 years) and are a legal resident or citizen of the United States, then you are entitled to Medicare Part A. If you did not work, you may still qualify under a spouse. If you worked less than 40 quarters and do not qualify under your spouse, you must pay for this coverage if you elect to get it. This coverage can cost up to $441 a month depending on how many working quarters you are short.
Part B is also important as it covers other services such as office visits, lab work, and x-rays. There is a cost for Part B for most seniors. For most it will cost $ 104.09 per month. Update for 2016 is that most newly eligible Medicare recipients will now be paying a higher premium for Part B of $121.80 per month. Those Seniors who are low income may qualify for Medi-cal and in some instances this monthly cost can be covered by Medi-cal. For seniors who are high earners making more than $85,000 for singles or 170,000 for a couple, the cost might be slightly higher. It is important that you sign up for Medicare Part B right away as there is a penalty for signing up late which means your monthly cost would be higher. There is an exception to this rule. If you have credible insurance through work or a retirement health plan, you can choose to keep that insurance instead of signing up for Part B and you will not be penalized for signing up late.
So how and when does one sign up for Medicare? For those who are receiving Social Security or Rail Road Retirement Benefits, you will be signed up automatically about 3 months before your 65th birthday. You should expect to receive your Medicare card shortly after. Social Security will begin deducting your Part B premium from your check once Medicare goes into effect. This typically is the 1st day of the month you turn 65. For seniors who are still working or not receiving social security benefits, you can sign up for Medicare 3 months before your 65th birthday. You can do this by going to social security online and doing a quick 10 minute application. You can also apply in person by going to your local social security office to apply. If you prefer, you can call Social Security for help as well.
You also need to consider your prescription drug coverage and supplemental insurance. Prescription drug coverage works much like Part B in that you can get penalized for signing up late if you do not have other coverage in its place. Part D premiums will vary as you buy this coverage through private insurance companies. Coverage usually starts at $15 a month and can go up from there. When selecting a plan, make sure to check to see if your prescriptions are covered and what your co-pays will be. If you decide you would like to sign up for a Part C Medicare Advantage Plan, many plans will have drug coverage already included in the plan.
If you plan to stay with original Medicare, it is a good idea to look into a Medicare Supplement plan to cover the co-pays and deductibles that are not covered by Medicare. Prices for Medicare supplement plans vary as well depending on the coverage level and insurance company that you select. The nice thing is you can start shopping for a Medicare Supplement plan as soon as 6 months before your 65th birthday. This is a great idea since it allows you time to compare plans and you can also lock in your plan rate before a possible price increase from your insurance provider.
Not sure what kind of plan is right for you? Here is more information about Medicare Supplements vs. Medicare Advantage Part C plans to get you started. Still have questions? We are here to help! We have been helping seniors with Medicare since 1995 and we would be happy to help you as well. We are always a phone call 1-855-731-8888 , email, or even an online chat away! If your shy and you just want a quote for now, you can get instant Medicare supplement quotes here.
By Theresa Struckmeyer
Senior Health Plan and Finance Specialist
MP Insurance Solutions is a Senior Health Care Insurance Brokerage. We specialize in Medicare Supplement/ Medigap plans, Medicare Advantage/Medicare Part C, Prescription Drug Plans/Medicare Part D, Senior Term Life Insurance, Final Expense Insurance, Guaranteed Income Annuities, and Dental and Vision plans. We specialize in helping seniors in Southern California including Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Orange County California.