As far as milestones go, few people circle their sixty-fifth birthday as an exciting one. However, moving away from an individual health insurance policy to Medicare can save you a lot of money. So, maybe there is a birthday to get excited about after your 21st.
There are a few instances where you’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare. However, in many cases, you’ll have to apply yourself. Here’s a quick guide to understanding what you need to do (if anything).
If you’re receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement Board benefits at least four months before you turn 65, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare. This is the most common case.
If you have ALS or end-stage renal disease, you’ll automatically be enrolled when you begin receiving Social Security Disability benefits. If you have any other type of disability, you’ll be automatically enrolled 24 months after you’ve started receiving disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board.
If none of the above apply to you, you’ll have to apply for Medicare on your own.
When to Apply for Medicare
If you’re not going to be automatically enrolled, things can get a little tricky. Applying late means you’ll likely have late enrollment penalties added to your Medicare premiums. Definitely avoid the penalties – you’ll be paying those premiums for the rest of your life!
If you plan to retire after age 65, add a reminder to your calendar. Medicare’s Initial Enrollment Period is a seven-month window that includes the month of your 65th birthday, the three months before, and the three months after. That’s when you need to apply. Simply go to Medicare.gov to get started.
However, if you (or your spouse) have group health insurance and plan to work beyond your 65th birthday, there’s no need to stress. The Medicare Special Enrollment Period is an eight-month window that begins the month after you stop working or your group health insurance coverage ends, whichever comes first. If you sign up during a Special Enrollment Period, you will not be subject to late enrollment penalties.
Please note that the rules may be a little different if you work for a small business. If your company has 20 people or fewer, check with your employer to see if you need to sign up during the Initial Enrollment Period when you turn 65.
While you may not be excited about turning 65, at least you can save a little money on health insurance costs. Just don’t forget to be late for enrollment!
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