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How do I enroll in Medicare?

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Hello Toni:

I am turning 65 in July and am bombarded with mail and telemarketing calls. I am not receiving Social Security and a friend who just got Medicare is receiving her Social Security check. Do I have to be receiving my Social Security check to get Medicare?

Please explain what I should do because I was waiting to apply for Social Security until I can receive 100% of my benefits. Currently, I have an individual health plan with a $6,000 deductible, so having Medicare benefits would be a blessing. Thanks, Toni.

--Joan from Phoenix

Hi Joan:

Enrolling in Medicare can be very confusing! Most people think that when they turn 65, a magical switch flips on and “poof” they are on Medicare. Medicare does not enroll you into Medicare. Social Security is the government agency that enrolls America into Medicare. (Chapter 1 of Toni’s Medicare Survival Guide Advanced edition discusses different situations for enrolling in Medicare the right way.)

 

Let’s discuss how to take your Medicare at the right time:

Situation 1. Turning 65 and receiving your Social Security check: This is the simplest way to receive your Medicare card. Social Security will notify Medicare that you have turned 65. Medicare will send your “Welcome to Medicare” kit 90 days before you turn 65 with your Medicare card in the kit. Remember, Social Security processes the paperwork for Medicare. Joan, this was your friend’s situation because she was receiving her Social Security check.

Situation 2. Turning 65 and “still working”: Talk to your employer’s Human Resources department. Ask if you need to enroll in Part B. If you do not need Part B because you are “still working” or your spouse is “still working” and you have health benefits, you may want to delay your Part B. You may want to enroll in “Medicare Part A Hospital” only.

Situation 3. Turning 65 and NOT receiving your Social Security check and NOT covered by your or your spouse’s employer’s health benefits: Individuals approaching 65 under these circumstances need to initiate their own enrollment online at SSA.gov. It’s a good idea to open a SSA.gov account well before you turn 65. Joan, this is your Medicare situation, because you want to enroll in Medicare and are waiting past 65 to receive 100% of your Social Security. (If you have trouble opening a SSA.gov account, contact your local Social Security office or call the Social Security’s toll-free number, (800) 772-1213, for assistance.)

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