What to Know About Applying for Medicare

As you head into retirement, there are a number of personal matters that will need your focus. Among those matters will be applying for Social Security and subsequently applying for Medicare.


Under normal circumstances, getting yourself enrolled in Medicare could be a complicated process. If there were to be any extenuating circumstances, the process could end up being intimidating.


With that said, it might be of benefit to you to have some useful information about the Medicare enrollment process. To that end, please read the following.


Who Qualifies for Medicare?


There are two ways to qualify for Medicare. The easiest way is to reach retirement age, which currently stands at 65 years old. That’s the normal age at which Americans can start drawing Social Security.


The second way is by qualifying for disability benefits. People can apply for disability benefits after suffering an injury or disease that diminishes their ability to work. Upon qualifying for disability benefits, the disabled become eligible for Medicare 24 months after the starting date of their disability benefits. In this case, enrollment is automatic for Parts A & B.


Medicare Plans


When your day comes, you will have decisions to make about Medicare. The decisions you will make will most likely be driven by the cost of coverage and the kinds of coverage you want. Let’s take a look at the current Medicare options.


Original Medicare: This option consists of Plan A, which covers hospital costs, and Plan B, which covers doctor visits and outpatient care. Recipients can choose any doctor or hospital in the U.S.


Costs for Plan A are free for anyone who has worked at least 10 years and paid into social security. Otherwise, the costs would run several hundred dollars a month depending on factors like age and state of residence. For most people, enrollment in Plan A is automatic.


The statutory costs for Plan B will change every year. For 2020, the statutory rate has been $144.60 a month. In 2021, the estimated cost will be $148.00. People must enroll during designated enrollment periods.


Medicare Advantage (formerly known as Part C): This plan is considered to be a bundled Medicare plan. It includes the benefits of Plan A, Plan B, and Plan D (see below). It also includes additional optional coverages (vision, hearing, dental, and more) for additional costs.


Costs for Medicare Advantage will vary by state, insurance provider, and the actual coverages included. Recipients will usually have to use in-network doctors and hospitals.


Medicare drug plan (Part D): This plan is a supplemental plan that covers prescription drugs. The cost of this plan will vary by state and insurance provider.


Supplemental (Medigap or Plan G): Helps recipients cover copays and other uncovered costs. The cost of this plan comes with a $2,300+ deductible and will vary by state and insurance provider.


Note: Starting in 2020, Plans C & F were no longer available for new enrollees.


How to Enroll


Medicare is managed by the Social Security Administration. You can enroll for the Medicare plans of your choice as a retiree during your designated enrollment period. The “seven-year period” designated enrollment period includes the three months prior to your 65th birthday, the month of your 65th birthday, and the three months following your 65th birthday month.


Enrollment can be completed online at www.SocialSecurity.gov, or by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday (business hours 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM), or in-person at your local Social Security Administration office.