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5 Frequently Asked Questions About Signing up for Medicare

We experience many significant birthdays in our lives: a sweet 16 (with or without the new car), adulthood at 18, legal drinking age at 21, and then much later, the big 6-5! And with our 65th birthday comes Medicare. This one creeps up on most people, leaving them unprepared to deal with the not-so-fun task of signing up for Medicare.

The Medicare enrollment process is made even more grueling by the endless amount of information (and misinformation) online, on TV, and in your mailbox. As that big birthday draws nearer, you’ll be barraged with noise from door-to-door salespeople, direct mail advertisements, social media messages, banner ads, and telemarketers. It’s hard to know what’s what!

Signing up for Medicare isn’t as difficult as all that makes it out to be. Today, we’re going to tackle the five most common questions we get asked when our clients are getting ready to enroll in Medicare.

person on ipad, typing in frequently asked questions about signing up for medicare

1. Do I have to sign up for Medicare when I turn 65?

This first one is probably the most common question we hear. More and more people are working past the age of 65, or still have a spouse who is working. In those cases, you’ll often have the opportunity to enroll in an employer-sponsored group health plan. If that plan offers great coverage and your employer helps pay for some of it, it can be smart to keep the plan.

People in this situation need to do a couple of things. First, find out if the group health plan is creditable. (Your HR manager or insurance carrier will have the answer to that question.) If the plan isn’t creditable, you can’t postpone your Medicare enrollment without getting a penalty. If it is creditable, you have to consider the coverage and cost.

Compare the group plan’s benefits and costs with what you could get from Medicare. You’ll have to learn more about your Medicare options to do this, but a Medicare advisor will be able to make that process even easier. They’ll help you compare coverage, premiums, and out-of-pocket costs. Remember, when you transition to Medicare, you’ll need more than just Parts A and B. 

Even if you decide to stay on your employer’s plan, most people will at least sign up for Medicare Part A since it is premium-free (as long as you paid Medicare taxes for at least ten years). The only time we don’t recommend this is if you are still contributing to a Health Savings Account (HSA).

Lastly, if you are already drawing Social Security benefits, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Parts A and B. When you get your Medicare ID card in the mail, you’ll need to notify them if you wish to postpone one or both parts. 

2. How long do I have to apply for Medicare?

You have seven months to apply for Medicare. Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) begins three full months before your birthday month and lasts for three full months after your birthday month. So, if your birthday is on July 10, your IEP runs from April 1 through October 31. You can apply for Medicare during any of those seven months.

If you miss your IEP and don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP), you’ll need to wait for the General Enrollment Period (GEP) to sign up for Medicare. The GEP runs from January 1 through March 31 each year.

3. Which is better: Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare?

Now this is a question that can stir up quite the debate! Original Medicare consists of Part A and Part B. Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C, is a private alternative to Original Medicare. While you are still enrolled in Medicare, all your benefits come from a private insurer if you choose Medicare Advantage.

Medicare doesn’t offer a one-size-fits-all solution, so there is no right answer to this question. Work with your Medicare advisor to weigh the pros and cons of each option. As long as you understand your plan, you can’t go wrong either way.

4. Which Medicare Supplement plan is best?

Medicare Supplements, also known as Medigap plans, are secondary insurance policies you can add to your Original Medicare benefits. Medigap plans pick up some or all of the out-of-pocket costs that you’d otherwise be responsible for paying.

There are about ten Medigap plans on the market, but the most popular ones are Plan F, Plan G, and Plan N. As we said with the last question, there are no right or wrong choices, Each has slightly different benefits and premiums, so you’ll have to decide which aspect is more important to you.

5. What if I can’t afford Medicare?

Most people who are on Medicare are also on fixed incomes. Sometimes, this can make it hard to afford Medicare premiums, especially if you’re not used to paying for health insurance. (People who enjoyed robust employer-sponsored plans are often surprised at the cost of Medicare.)

Every state has Medicaid as a financial assistance option. Eligibility requirements vary, but they are all based on income and assets. If you are eligible for Medicaid, you can get help with your Medicare premiums and your out-of-pocket costs.

Got Medicare Questions? We Can Help!

Even though we tackled some of the common Medicare questions, there are still many more get asked every day. It’s great to do your own research, but you don’t have to go through this process alone. Working with a Medicare advisor in Arizona is a great way to make sure you choose the best Medicare plan for you.

To learn more about Medicare, contact your Local Medicare Specialist today!

Still Have Medicare Questions?

Schedule a FREE Medicare plan consultation with an agent in your neighborhood.


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