Want to sign up for Medicare, but don't know where to start?

You qualify for Medicare when you turn age 65.

You have 7-months to enroll in Part A and/or Part B of Medicare without penalties. Your window to enroll begins 3 months before the month you turn 65, the month you turn 65, and 3 months after you turn 65.

For most, Part A is free because you’ve paid into Medicare through taxes, but there is a cost to Part B. There are some situations where you will be automatically enrolled in Part A and receive a Medicare ID card in the mail when you turn 65, but most will need to contact Social Security and enroll during the Initial Enrollment Period. Here’s how to contact Social Security:

Yes, you can receive Medicare benefits if you are younger than age 65 with certain disabilities and have received Social Security disability benefits for 24 months, or if you have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). There is a five-month waiting period after a disability determination is made before you can begin to collect Social Security disability benefits. Those with ESRD and ALS, in contrast to persons with other causes of disability, do not have to collect benefits for 24 months in order to be eligible for Medicare.

At age 65, most people choose to enroll in Part A (Hospital Insurance) since there is typically no cost, but some choose to delay enrolling into Part B (Medical Insurance) depending on their health coverage situation. Some of these situations include: Being covered by an employer plan because you are actively working; being covered by a spouse’s active employer coverage; or having COBRA coverage. With some employer coverage — whether current employer, former employer, or COBRA — Medicare may be the primary coverage source. If you choose not to enroll in Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period, you may have to pay a penalty when you enroll into Part B later and you could have a gap in your health coverage. The longer you delay, the higher the penalty will be.

Medicare Parts A and B (assuming you’re enrolled in both) provide coverage for a variety of select health-related services. However, we recommend that you find additional coverage to complete your Medicare benefits since Medicare alone does not limit your annual out-of-pocket expenses and has gaps in coverage that result in direct expenses to you. Private insurance companies on the Aon Retiree Health Exchange offer plans with monthly premiums to help cover costs that Medicare does not pay for.

The best time to enroll in a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Plan is during Medigap Open Enrollment, the 6-month period which begins on the first day of the month in which you’re 65 and enrolled in Part B. This is a one-time-only 6-month period where you can buy any policy sold in your state for the same price (without medical underwriting) even if you have health problems — this is referred to as guaranteed issue rights. You won’t have a right, in most cases, to switch Medicare Supplement plans unless you are eligible under a specific circumstance or have guaranteed issue rights, or you are within your 6-month Medicare Supplement enrollment period. You do not have to wait a certain amount of time if you have a plan before you can switch to a different plan.

You can change to another Medicare Advantage Plan or go back to Medicare Parts A and B within the first 3 months you have Medicare.

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