For the past 5 years, I’ve ended my columns with the statement “…and if you have any questions, please call me…” Through the years, many of you have called. Some questions we could answer on the phone and some required a visit. I thought it might be helpful if we discussed some of the most often asked questions in this month’s column.
- When should I apply for Medicare? About three months before your 65th birthday. If you have not been on Social Security, we recommend that you contact Medicare three months before the month of your 65th birthday. You can call Medicare, make an appointment to go to their office, or go on line to Medicare.gov. If you have been on Social Security, you should automatically receive your Medicare card in the mail. If it hasn’t come two months before your birthday month, contact Medicare.
- What is so important about the timing for enrollment? Most of us will enjoy a once in a lifetime opportunity to make some very important decisions regarding our insurance. This window of opportunity is three months before our 65th birthday, the month of our birthday, and three months following our 65th birthday. During this time, we will want our Medicare to go into effect the first day of our birthday month, to begin receiving Medicare benefits immediately and to avoid any penalties that may occur by waiting until a later date. Secondly, this will be the only time in our lives where we will receive an opportunity to purchase a comprehensive Medicare supplement plan at standard rates, with guaranteed issue, and a guaranteed lifetime renewal. Many people have pre-existing health conditions when they turn sixty-five. During this seven-month period, no pre-existing health condition questions will be asked on the application. I must stress that this lifetime guaranteed renewal is only for Medicare supplements and not for Medicare Advantage plans. If you choose to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan, this seven-month period also becomes a special enrollment period for you.
- What if I’m turning 65 and I’m still working? A) If you are still working and have no health insurance, or have a personal individual medical insurance policy, or have a group medical insurance policy with less than twenty employees enrolled, the same rules apply. You are still required to apply for Medicare Parts A and B which will discontinue any coverage you may have. You still will have the seven-month open enrollment period and the guarantees of purchasing a comprehensive Medicare supplement policy during this time or a special enrollment period for a Medicare Advantage plan. B) If you are still working and have a qualified group insurance plan with 20 or more employees and plan to stay on that policy until you retire, you must present a letter from your company, when you do retire, stating that you’ve been covered during that time- period. You will then have a 63-day special enrollment period to enroll in Medicare and choose a supplemental insurance plan with a guaranteed issue. It has been suggested that you enroll at 65 for Medicare part A only, even though you are still working, and you’re still covered with your group insurance plan. There is no premium for Medicare Part A and it can be used as a secondary plan of coverage in conjunction with your group insurance plan.
- I have been overwhelmed with letters in the mail and phone calls from insurance companies regarding my up-coming 65th birthday, Medicare, and supplemental insurance policies. What should I do?
As I indicated earlier, this is one of the most important times of your life. These could be some of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. Call in a specialist. Contact someone who will work with you and for you and not just for an insurance company. Call someone who is time tested, experienced, and will work in your best interest and for your individual, financial, and personal needs. Contact someone who will be there for you in the future as questions arise or to review your benefits when needed.
P. S. Your new Medicare card and new card number should be arriving in the mail before the end of the year. Don’t forget to destroy your old card when the new one arrives. Start using the new one right away. Keep your supplement insurance cards and your prescription drug plan cards. Protect your new number just as you would your credit cards.
In future issues we’ll look at additional Medicare related questions that are frequently asked. We’ll review again Medicare’s Skilled Nursing Home benefits. We’ll look at what Medicare doesn’t cover. We’ll also take a look at ancillary insurances and insurance related products such as cancer insurance, life insurance, short term care, dental, optical, and hearing benefits.
As always, if we can be of assistance, just give us a call.
Orion Steen is a licensed agent and specializes in Medicare supplemental plans. He has been advising his clients on life and health insurance matters in Arizona for over 45 years. He can be reached for related questions by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, call toll-free 888-846-6891 or cell 623-846-6891.