Bob Dylan released “The Times They Are a-Changin” back in 1964, and that sure seems to be the case 50 years later. From redefining aging to reinventing retirement, boomers continue to march to the beat of a different drum.
One thing hasn’t changed, though; Medicare eligibility begins at age 65. And boomers born in 1949 are next up to join the ranks of Medicare beneficiaries.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Your Initial Enrollment Period
This is a span of seven months during which you need to enroll in Medicare. Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) begins three months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65 and ends 3 months after the month you turn 65. If you are already receiving benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board at this time, in most cases, you will be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare Parts A and B. Otherwise you need to contact your local Social Security office or Medicare to enroll.
2. The Part B Decision
Most people get Part A (hospital insurance) premium-free because they or their spouse worked and paid taxes. You can sign up for Part A even if you continue working and have employer insurance. In that case, Part A would be your secondary hospital insurance.
Part B (medical insurance) is a different story. You will pay a premium for Part B. So you may want to delay signing up if you have other health care coverage, such as through an employer or union. Make sure you understand the requirements for signing up later if you decide to wait so you can avoid late enrollment penalties.
3. The Two Ways to Get Medicare
Original Medicare (Parts A & B) is the traditional method of receiving Medicare benefits. When you choose this method, your health care coverage is administered by the federal government.
Instead of Original Medicare, you may choose a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C). Medicare Advantage plans are required to provide all the benefits included under Original Medicare Parts A and B. Many plans also include additional benefits not offered by Original Medicare, such as prescription drug coverage and routine dental, vision and hearing care.
Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. You must be enrolled in both Part A and Part B to be eligible for a Medicare Advantage plan, and you continue to pay your Part B premium to Medicare.
4. Adding Coverage to Original Medicare
Original Medicare doesn’t cover everything. For example, it doesn’t include coverage for prescription drugs or routine vision, dental or hearing care. You may buy the additional coverage you may need through a prescription drug plan (part D) and a Medicare supplement insurance plan (Medigap). These plans are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. You must be enrolled in both Part A and Part B to be eligible for a prescription drug plan or a Medicare supplement insurance plan, and you continue to pay your Part B premium to Medicare.
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