A WORD OF CAUTION: Even if you believe you have a good understanding of Medicare’s enrollment guidelines, it’s still recommended you take time to double check by calling or visiting a Social Security Administration (SSA) office to discuss both your understanding and intentions. This should be done during the three month window preceding your 65th birthday.
Calling SSA to confirm what you may already know only costs you a few minutes of your time. In doing so, you may find that your understanding of your benefits is either incomplete or incorrect. Confirming this information sooner rather than later still gives you time adjust your plan and potentially avoid adverse consequences such as life-long penalties or gaps in insurance coverage.
Because the type of medical insurance you currently have and the size of your employer play big roles in determining the time-frame in which you need to enroll for original Medicare and supplemental coverage, having the most current SSA-verified facts at your disposal, at the right time, is very important.
The Unknown Safeguard
So, what is the big precaution? It’s the fact that if you contact the SSA and make a record of the conversation, you greatly increase the likelihood of obtaining relief if they provide you with incorrect information.
Otherwise, if you fail to have a conversation with the SSA or, if you did and they provided you with correct information, you may face the consequences mentioned earlier for not having enrolled in the correct Medicare plans at the proper time.
Therefore, no matter with whom you speak about Medicare enrollment––your employer, your insurance agent, your financial adviser, or an agent for the State––you should have a conversation with an SSA agent to verify the enrollment information you believe is correct. It’s that simple. No conversation; no recourse.
What Affects Your Enrollment Deadline?
A number of factors affect the timing and your eligibility to enroll in Medicare and supplemental coverage.
These factors include:
- Collecting Social Security disability benefits before age 65
- Continuing to work after age 65
- The size of the employer who provides your insurance coverage
- Having COBRA insurance or retiree health insurance after you retire
- Having health care coverage through the Veterans Administration
- Qualifying for Medicare’s special enrollment periods
- The end-date for employer coverage
- The Part B effective date
Navigating the “Medicare Maze”
Medicare has evolved over time into an alphabetic maze of pathways labeled Parts A, B, C and D. Determining which combination is right for you and making timely enrollment elections requires upfront planning and decision-making. Procrastination can result in negative outcomes.
Here are three recommendations for those approaching Medicare eligibility:
- Start your Medicare deliberation process when you are 64 years old
- Have a conversation with an SSA agent to verify what you believe is the best route for you
- Schedule a time to meet with an insurance agent who specializes in the Medicare market and offers the necessary coverage options Medicare provides
Get a Head Start
To read more about the importance of Medicare pre-planning please click this link: When I’m 64: What everyone should understand about Medicare before their 65th birthday.