As you near 65, Medicare starts to become an intimidating reality on the horizon. Navigating the world of Medicare and the various plans to select from can be a dreary undergoing. Nevertheless, when you turn 65, Medicare becomes a part of your life. If your 65th birthday is right around the corner you have most likely been bombarded with mailings, phone calls, and TV commercials by Hall of Fame football quarterbacks. You most likely have been hearing about different plans from your healthcare professionals, your family members on Medicare, and your neighbors. EVERYONE HAS AN OPINION on what Medicare health plan is the best and what plan you should be signing up for.
Before you can jump into all the different insurance companies and the numerous Medicare insurance health plans those companies offer, you need to obtain Medicare itself. That little Red, White, and Blue card you have probably seen over a dozen times already is your ticket into this exclusive club. You can not have a Medicare health plan such as a Medigap plan or Medicare Advantage health plan without Medicare itself.
One of the top questions I receive as a Medicare insurance agent is, “How do I enroll in Medicare?” Before we can address the “HOW,” we need to address the question, “Do you need to sign up for Medicare?” In our blog about “Should I keep my Group Insurance or is a Medicare health plan better for me?” We speak about situations where someone does not need to sign up for Medicare due to having credible coverage such as Group Insurance. The question in this blog about “Do you need to sign up for Medicare?” Is focused on an individual who wants to be on Medicare and/or a Medicare health plan.
Medicare is a benefit you are entitled to, and that entitlement is traditionally at your 65th birthday month. The rule of thumb for addressing whether you need to sign up for Medicare centers around Social Security. (It is important to note, Medicare is not Social Security, and you do not have to have Social Security to have Medicare.) If you are receiving Social Security benefits prior to your 65th birthday month you DO NOT need to sign up for Medicare. If you are already receiving Social Security, you “should” receive your Medicare card in the mail prior to your 65th birthday month. If you are not receiving Social Security prior to your 65th birthday month, you NEED to sign up for Medicare.
As for the HOW portion of this discussion, if you are someone not receiving Social Security and needing to sign up for Medicare, you can do this in 1 of 3 ways:
- Sign up for Medicare online through the Social Security website. (www.ssa.gov)
- Feedback from our clients has indicated this is the quickest and least stressful means for signing up for Medicare. Once you land on the Social Security website home page, there is an option right in the middle of the screen that says, “Medicare Enrollment.”
- Sign up for Medicare over the phone. You can call Social Security at 1 (800) 772-1213.
- Feedback from our clients has shown the hold times can be exceptionally long. Some clients have advised they have waited on hold for over an hour.
- Sign up in your local Social Security office. A quick Google search will show you the local Social Security offices. You can try your luck walking into these offices and signing up for Medicare in-person.
- In speaking with clients who have tried this method for singing up for Medicare, we have found that most offices require an appointment. Thus, forcing you to call the 800 number anyways. Also, due to the current state of COVID, most Social Security offices have remained closed.
Once you have signed up for Medicare, our clients have typically received Medicare information and/or their cards within 2-3 government business weeks. When you receive this information about your Medicare being approved and when it will officially start, you are now ready to navigate the numerous plan options you can select from.
Your Medicare journey is just beginning.