Turning 65 and Medicare
When You Turn Age 65
With about 10,000 boomers turning 65 every day between now and 2030, the question of “when I turn age 65, what do I need to know about Medicare?” becomes prominent.
Age 65 and Medicare go together like peanut butter and jelly. And here’s the information you need to know:
Note – We know Medicare can be confusing. If at any time you have questions, we have licensed agents who will help you, free of charge. Call us at 888-316-1432 ext. 3.
You become eligible for Medicare at age 65, and you do not want to delay enrolling, as that could result in penalties.
Your enrollment steps will vary depending on if you are already collecting retirement benefits:
- If you are receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you should be automatically enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B. You need not enroll in these and should receive a letter and your card in the mail about three months before your 65th birthday.
- If you are not receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you will need to actively enroll in Medicare.
Note: some eligible people turn down Part B (outpatient doctor coverage) because they are still working or otherwise still covered by an employer’s plan, or are on their spouse’s coverage, or similar. This may or may not be a mistake, because you could incur a penalty if you sign up later. Call us at 888-316-1432 ext. 3 if you want a second opinion.
There’s a seven-month window to enroll, all based on your 65th birthday. This window is called your “Initial Enrollment Period” (IEP). You can enroll anytime in this 7-month window.
The enrollment period is 3 months before your 65th birthday month, your birthday month when you turn age 65, then three months after your 65th birthday month.
The date your Medicare coverage begins depends on when you sign up.
- If you enroll during the first three months of your IEP, your coverage begins the month you turn age 65.
- If you enroll during the fourth month of your IEP (your birthday month), coverage begins the following month.
- If you enroll during the fifth month of your IEP, coverage begins the second month following the month of enrollment (so you wait a bit longer)
- If you enroll during the sixth or seventh month of your IEP, coverage begins the third month following the month of enrollment (so you wait even longer. See where this is going? Enroll earlier if you can.)
Signing up for Medicare
During your IEP (explained above), you can enroll in Medicare the following ways:
- Visiting your local Social Security office
- Calling Social Security at 800-772-1213
- Mailing a signed and dated letter to Social Security that includes your name, Social Security number, and the date you would like to be enrolled in Medicare
- Applying online at www.ssa.gov
Note: If you are eligible for Railroad Retirement benefits, you can enroll in Medicare by calling the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) or contacting your local RRB office.
Make Sure You Document Everything
Nobody is perfect, and records can sometimes be misplaced, so keep receipts, names, etc. This will help protect you from incurring a Part B penalty if your application or information is lost.
- Take down the names of anyone you speak to, including date and time.
- If you enroll via USPS mail, use certified mail and request a return receipt.
- If you enroll at your local Social Security office, ask for a written receipt.
- If you apply online, print out and save your confirmation page.
Avoid Part B Penalties
As we stated earlier, if you do not sign up for Part B during your IEP, then you will be subject to a penalty when you do sign up. The penalty can be up to 10 percent for each 12-month period that you could have had Medicare Part B, but did not take it. In addition, you will have to wait for the general enrollment period to enroll. The general enrollment period usually runs between January 1 and March 31 of each year.
Medicare Part D Prescription Plans
Medicare offers prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D.
In terms of enrollment at age 65, if you are not going to sign up for an optional Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage, then you will very likely want to enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan. That’s because like Part B, there is a penalty, which is 1% for every month you delay enrollment past the initial enrollment period. However, you are exempt from these penalties if you did not enroll because you had prescription drug coverage from another insurer (such as a job’s, or a retirement plan or similar). The catch is this plan needs to be at least as good as Medicare’s (a distinction known as “creditable coverage”). Your provider will know if their coverage is considered “creditable”.