What Age Can You Collect Medicare?
You can get your Medicare card at age 65, but you can still enroll in Part B as early as age 62. If you enroll in Part B early, you'll pay a higher premium than you would if you waited to enroll until the standard enrollment period, but your premium will be higher only for the time you were enrolled. You can sign up for Part B during the general enrollment period (the months of January through March) or during the late enrollment period (the period from July through September). If you have a complicated life situation, you can enroll at any time during the year.
What is the general enrollment period?
Usually, you can sign up for Medicare during the general enrollment period from January 1 to March 31 of each year. If you enroll during this time, your coverage will start on July 1.
What is the late enrollment period?
During the late enrollment period, which runs from July 1 to September 30, you can enroll in Medicare only if you have a qualifying life event. Examples of qualifying life events include the death of a spouse or divorce. You can't enroll during the late enrollment period if you just turned 65 or if you missed the earlier open enrollment period.
You can find out more about Medicare from the Social Security website at www.socialsecurity.gov.
Medicare Advantage Plans
Medicare Advantage plans are a type of Medicare health plan that is offered by private insurance companies instead of the government. Medicare Advantage plans are required to cover the same benefits as Original Medicare Parts A and B. However, unlike Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans typically include the Part D prescription drug coverage.
Some Medicare Advantage plans are also known as Medicare Part C.
When you enroll in Medicare Part C, you give up your traditional Medicare benefits and switch to the benefits offered by your plan.
Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance companies.
You can switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare anytime you like without losing any of the benefits you've already earned. However, you may have to pay a penalty if you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that offers prescription drug coverage and then later enroll in a plan that doesn't.
You can get a list of Medicare Advantage plans from your state's social service office or your state's health insurance marketplace.
Your Medicare Coverage
Medicare is divided into four parts, each of which fills a different need.
Part A is hospitalization. It covers your hospital stays, including the room and board and basic medical care given at the hospital. As long as you are eligible for Medicare, your hospital insurance is always free.
Part B is medical insurance. It covers 80 percent of the cost of your medical care, including the services of doctors, visiting specialists, diagnostic tests, physical therapy, and other treatments and procedures. If you are eligible for Medicare, your Part B insurance is also free.
Part D is prescription drug coverage. It covers the cost of medications that are approved by Medicare. You'll pay a monthly premium for Part D, and you are responsible for paying a large portion of the cost of your medications.
Part C is sometimes referred to as Medicare Advantage. It covers the same benefits as Parts A, B, and D, but the services are provided by private health insurance companies instead of the government.
You can learn more about each of these parts in the following sections of this chapter.
Part A: Hospital insurance
Most of the time, you pay nothing for the Part A coverage that will cover your hospital stays. You must pay a monthly premium only if you are in a Medicare Advantage plan that includes Part A coverage.
If you do not have any other insurance and you enroll in Part A, you'll pay a monthly premium of $236.40. If you are enrolled in Part A and you also have Part B, or Part C, you'll pay a monthly premium of $99.90.
In addition to the Medicare tax you pay to support the entire Medicare program, you may have to pay a surcharge if you don't enroll in Part A when you are first eligible. This surcharge is based on your income. The higher your income, the higher the surcharge.
If you don't sign up for Part A and you have no other insurance, you may be denied emergency medical care at hospitals.
If you have Medicare and you have savings and resources that are more than the amounts shown in Table 3-1, you may have to pay a higher premium for Part A.
TABLE 3-1 How Your Resources Are Counted
Resource Amount That Is Counted as a Resource
Bank savings $6,000
Retirement accounts (including IRA, 401(k), 403(b), SEP, and Keogh) $1,500
Life insurance $1,500 per person
Pension plan $1,500 per person
Receiving Social Security benefits is not considered a resource when you sign up for Medicare Part A. If you have other income and resources that are too high to qualify for premium-free Part A, you may still be eligible for premium-free Part A if you are getting Social Security. However, if your income and resources are more than the amounts shown in Table 3-2, you may still have to pay a higher premium to enroll in Part A.
TABLE 3-2 How Your Income Is Counted
Income Amount That Is Counted for Part A Premiums
Social Security $1,160 for all of 2018
Social Security plus other income $1,560 for all of 2018
If you don't sign up for Part A when you are first eligible, your monthly premium for Part A will be higher.
Social Security pays