The Medicare Initial Enrollment Period was discussed last week. Today’s topic is the online Medicare application, applicable for people approaching age 65 and not yet wanting to receive Social Security benefits.
People already getting Social Security benefits are enrolled in Medicare Part A (Hospital) and Part B (Medical) automatically. Since there is a monthly premium for Part B coverage, there is an option of turning it down. Learn about the different parts of Medicare at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/medicare.htm.
Automatic enrollment does not apply if you are not receiving Social Security payments. In this case, complete the online Medicare application or contact Social Security about three months before your 65th birthday to sign up for Medicare.
Sign up for at least Medicare Part A (Hospital). Not everyone needs to enroll in Medicare Part B (Medical) at age 65. Whether you do or not is something that you must research and decide. No one at Social Security can decide this for you.
A major reason for deferring Part B enrollment is when a person is covered under a group health plan, either from their own or a spouse’s current employment. For more about this, see Medicare, SSA publication 05-10043. Go to the “Signing up for Medicare” section and the “special enrollment period for people covered under an employer group health plan.”
Do you have TRICARE coverage? See the Tricare website before making your Part B decision.
Now you are ready to file for Medicare. How do you do this?
You have two basic options. One is to contact Social Security (national toll-free number 800-772-1213 / TTY 800-325-0778 or your local office), make an appointment, and file for Medicare at a SSA office or over the telephone. The second option is to take about 10 minutes, at your convenience including weekends, and complete the Medicare application online at www.socialsecurity.gov.
Social Security encourages you to file online. It’s easy.
At the Benefit Application screen, start your application by selecting “Apply For Benefits. Then you provide identifying information and receive an application number. This number lets you leave a started application and complete later. It also lets you track the status of a completed application. Moving along, you confirm that you are filing only for Medicare, not for monthly Social Security benefits, provide information about other health insurance coverage, and state if you want Medicare Part B. Drop down boxes provide information about specific questions. After a few minutes, you reach the summary screen. Review your application for accuracy, then sign it electronically. You get a receipt.
What happens next? Your local Social Security office, based on zip code, receives your electronic application for review. If there are questions, you are contacted. If none, the office completes its part of the process.
What about proving your age? The Social Security representative matches identifying information from the application against existing Social Security records. Often your application is completed without additional age evidence from you. Sometimes a birth certificate is requested.
A word of caution: Filing only for Medicare, and not Social Security benefits, might be a good decision for you but consider your options. For example, will your expected earnings prevent Social Security benefits from being payable? Can family members receive on your record? Use the Social Security retirement planner tools when making your decision.