Enrolling in Medicare

Q:  I reach age 65 in 2012.  Will SSA contact me to enroll in Medicare?   Where can I find Medicare information?

A:  How you enroll in Medicare depends on whether or not you are receiving monthly Social Security benefits.  If already receiving benefits, your Medicare card is automatically mailed to you a few months before your birthday.  Unless you instruct otherwise, you will be enrolled in Medicare Part A (Hospital) and Part B (Medical) effective with the first day of the month you reach age 65.

If not receiving monthly benefits, you must take action and contact Social Security to enroll in Medicare.  Either complete the online Medicare application at www.socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly/ or speak to a SSA representative.  Do this about three months before your 65th birthday, even if you have no immediate plans to retire.

Medicare Part A (Hospital) does not have a monthly premium if you receive or are eligible to receive Social Security, Railroad Retirement, or other specific benefits.  This covers most people but rare situations exist where a person is not eligible for premium free Part A.  Those involved can purchase it if desired.  The vast majority of people do not pay a premium for Medicare Part A and the usual practice is to enroll in Part A at age 65.

 Medicare Part B (Medical) does have a premium.  Reduced from 2011, the standard 2012 Medicare Part B monthly premium is $99.90.  Some people pay a higher premium based on income.  Premiums are deducted from ongoing Social Security benefits or direct billed on a quarterly basis if you are not receiving benefits.  You might not need Part B coverage yet if you have employer health insurance from your own, or a spouse’s, current employment.  Part B is optional.  Deciding if you should have Part B is your decision. 

Note:  Although this reply refers to starting Medicare at age 65, certain people younger than age 65 also qualify for Medicare, including those who receive Social Security due to disability and those who have permanent kidney failure or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).  Although different rules apply concerning when Medicare coverage begins, a person receiving Social Security is automatically sent a Medicare card a few months in advance.

Social Security employees can help you enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B.  They cannot answer questions about Medicare coverage.  Official Medicare information is at www.medicare.gov or call the toll-free phone number, 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227, TTY1-877-486-2048). 

Detailed coverage information is in the Medicare & You booklet, available on the Medicare website at http://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/10050.pdf or by calling the Medicare telephone number.  General Medicare coverage and premium information is on the Social Security website, www.socialsecurity.gov.  Medicare covers only the eligible person.  Family coverage is not provided.

For other Medicare related coverage, you must shop around for what is best for you.  This includes Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug) or private supplemental insurance.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) / Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administers Medicare.

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