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I’m Turning 65 What Do I Need to Do?


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At 65 you may be looking forward to different things: having grandchildren perhaps, possibly retiring from your career, or taking some trip that you’ve dreamed of your whole life. Sixty-five may also be a significant year for you as it may be the first year that you’re eligible for Medicare. Medicare is the government health insurance program that provides hospital (Part A) and medical (Part B) insurance to people 65 and older and some under who 65 who qualify because of a disability. Medicare Part A and Part B are called Original Medicare.

When should I sign up for Medicare?

You may be automatically enrolled in Medicare when you become eligible. Learn the difference between signing up for Medicare automatically and manually.

Signing up for Medicare automatically

You may be automatically enrolled in Medicare if you

  • Are already getting retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration
  • Are already getting retirements from the Railroad Retirement Board

If you are signed up for Medicare automatically, your Medicare card will be mailed to you three months before your 65th birthday. Your Medicare benefits will start on the first day of the month you turn 65. If your birthday is the first of the month, your benefits will start on the first day of the previous month.

You can be sure that you address is updated for Medicare by going to your My Social Security account online.

Signing up for Medicare manually

If you don’t get Medicare automatically, you can manually sign up for Medicare.

To sign up for Medicare manually, you can:

  • Visit the Social Security You can apply for Medicare only if you’re not yet ready to receive retirement benefits.
  • Call Social Security at1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, from 7AM to 7PM. TTY users can call 1-800-325-0778.
  • Apply in person at your local Social Security office.
  • If you worked for a railroad, you can apply for Medicare through the Railroad Retirement Board at 1-877-772-5772, Monday through Friday, from 9AM to 3:30PM. TTY users can dial 1-312-751-4701.

How to avoid the late-enrollment penalty when you sign up for Medicare

You might not be getting retirement benefits when you turn 65 because you are still working. In this case, you will have to sign up for Medicare when you retire and lose your employer health care coverage. When your employer coverage ends, you may have a special enrollment period to sign up for Medicare Part B without receiving a late-enrollment penalty.

Generally your monthly premium for Part B may go up 10% for each full 12-month period that you could have had Part B but didn’t sign up for it. Similarly, you Part A monthly premium may go up by 10% if you didn’t enroll when you were first eligible. However, most people qualify for premium-free Part A and therefore are also exempt from the Medicare Part A late-enrollment penalty.

Do I have alternatives to Original Medicare when you turn 65?

When you are eligible to sign up for Medicare at 65 you may want coverage in addition to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). This could include:

  • Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plans: Medicare Supplement insurance plans help pay out-of-pocket costs such as copayments, coinsurance and deductibles. You have a six month Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period that begins the month you turn 65 and are enrolled in Medicare Part B.
  • Medicare Part D: Medicare Part D is prescription drug coverage. Original Medicare generally doesn’t cover most of the prescription drugs you take at home which is why some Medicare beneficiaries chose Part D coverage. You have a 7-month Initial Enrollment Period for Part D which starts three months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and lasts three months after the month you turn 65.

You also may want a Medicare Advantage plan.

  • Medicare Advantage is an alternative way to get your Part A and Part B benefits from a private insurance company. Medicare Advantage plans must cover everything that Medicare Part A and Part B covers, with the exception of hospice care, which is still covered by Medicare Part A. The Medicare Advantage Initial Enrollment Period is the same as the Medicare Part D Initial Enrollment Period, which is 7 months. It starts three months before you turn 65, includes the month of your 65th birthday, and ends three months after your 65th birthday.

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