As a licensed insurance agent who specializes in Medicare the number one thing that new Medicare beneficiaries tell me is that transitioning into Medicare is stressful, and often confusing. Most people don’t know what they need to do, and it’s not their fault, free, unbiased Medicare information is hard to find. If you’re almost 65 or over 65 and still working, there are a few things you should do to prepare for Medicare. If you are already retired, and you are receiving Social Security payments, then you are usually automatically enrolled in Medicare as long as you qualify. However, if you are still working and planning to take Medicare, or if you are retired and not receiving Social Security payments, then you have to contact Social Security and request enrollment. But even if you’re automatically enrolled there are still important things you need to do to make sure that you are ready to transition into Medicare.
- Contact your employer/previous employer/union to see if they will be covering you when your Medicare starts.
- If you are still working and your employer provides you with health insurance contact HR and find out if you can keep your coverage. Usually, you can stay with your insurance, but some companies drop people from their health insurance when they turn 65. Sometimes the health plan requires you to work a minimum amount of hours per week to maintain coverage so if you plan to reduce your hours then it’s important to know if you will able to keep your health coverage.
- If you retired before you turned 65 and your or your spouse’s previous employer still provides you with health insurance you should contact them to find out if your coverage will continue. Some companies cover you but require you to enroll in Part A and B. Some companies will drop you from coverage when you turn 65 or shortly after.
- If you or your spouse retired from unionized employment, and you are not receiving Social Security payments, and not currently covered by the union then contact them anyway to see if they intend to offer you coverage. In some cases they will offer you a health plan to use with Medicare, it depends on the union.
- Contact The Social Security Administration two to three months before you turn 65. Your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) starts three full months before you turn 65. During your IEP you can enroll in Medicare and Medicare health plans. Your Medicare will usually start on the first day of the month you turn 65. It’s important to give yourself the extra time because sometimes it takes about a month to get a face to face appointment with a Social Security representative in your area so you may as well get it done early. Furthermore, you can take the opportunity to discuss your Social Security retirement income benefits. Knowing how much Social Security income you will be getting is crucial to planning for Medicare because it sets your budget, and it’s the best way to find out if you will qualify for state of federal Subsidies like Medicaid and Extra help. These subsidies can help with the cost of your healthcare when your Medicare starts.
- Consolidate your list of doctors. As you transition into retirement, some of your doctors may not accept Medicare, or the Medicare plans that you can afford. Making a list of the doctors you want to keep will make your plan selection faster and less stressful.
- Make a list of the prescriptions that you take. Making a list ahead of time will make it easier to find out what plans cover them. But whether or not a plan covers your prescriptions is only half the battle, it is just as important to see how much your medications will cost you monthly and compare costs against some of the plans in your area.
Medicare doesn’t have to be confusing or frustrating. If you approach it proactively, and you get impartial information from good sources, then it can be simple. Thank you for reading and good luck on your Medicare journey.