by Jonathan Scott
Each day in 2017, 10,000 Americans will turn 65. If you’re one of them, this milestone birthday probably means something special to you, but one thing you have in common with the other babies of 1952 is that you’ll be eligible for Medicare.
In the complicated world of Medicare, fortunately there are basically only a few choices of what you need to do.
If you’re turning 65 and already receive Social Security benefits, you don’t need to do anything. You’ll receive a package in the mail about three months prior to your birthday with your Medicare card. A letter explains that, starting the month you turn 65, your Medicare Part B premiums (for outpatient care) will automatically be deducted from your Social Security check.
For 1952 babies, that amount will be a set amount. You’ll also be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A (a hospitalization policy), but you’ve already paid for this during your working life (or your spouse’s), so there’s no additional cost.
If you’re still working and not receiving Social Security, or if you’re just waiting until you reach your full retirement age of 66—or beyond—then you’ll have to apply for Medicare yourself. You can do this by calling your regional Social Security office or by applying online at www.medicare.gov. You can enroll anytime from three months before your 65th birthday to three months after. If you do it before the month of your birthday, though, your benefits will start on your birth month. Don’t miss the window of opportunity or you may experience delays and a penalty.
If you’re continuing to work and can—and want to—keep the insurance your employer offers, you should still apply for Medicare Part A and postpone Part B until you retire. Keep in mind that if you work for a company with 20 or fewer employees, your insurance might not cover you after you turn 65. Larger employers might have insurance that will continue, but be sure to compare the costs and benefits of keeping your insurance with what Medicare offers.
When signing up for Medicare, you have an option to sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan. These are privately run policies that take the place of Medicare. You will still have to pay the Part B premium, in addition to the cost of the monthly premiums. Availability depends on the county you live in.
You also have the option to sign up for a Medicare Supplement. These are private insurance plans that cover expenses, co-pays and deductibles that Medicare doesn’t.
If you don’t decide to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll want to buy a separate prescription drug policy, called Medicare Part D. These are usually low-cost policies, but if you don’t get one when you turn 65, you will be hit with life-long penalties later on.
We wish a happy birthday to the 365,000 Americans turning 65 this year. You turned 12 the year the Beatles came to America. You turned 17 when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. This year is time for another milestone.
Free counseling on Medicare issues is available in North Carolina through the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (NC SHIIP). To find a counselor near you, visit www.ncdoi.com/shiip/
Social Security Questions?
To find your nearest Social Security office, visit www.ssa.gov