How to Sign Up for Medicare

Updated on November 1, 2016

I just turned 65 years old this month. It is a milestone of sorts. One of the rites of passage is signing up for Medicare coverage. Here is how I did it.

—Sept. 2016

Background

A year before I turned 65, I went out and bought a few books related to Medicare and Social Security and on retirement planning. After reading as much as I could, I must admit I was a bit intimidated by this whole process. Over the years, I have always had good medical coverage from my employer. After that, I was covered by my wife's employer which is also very good for the most part. As with most health insurance, the premiums have been going up along with higher deductibles. Since both of us are in generally good health, we decided to go with an HMO plan that is cheaper but with higher deductibles. We also signed up for a health savings account.

I knew that when I turned 65, I would be automaticallly covered by Medicare. But how to sign up?

The smartest thing I did was to go to our local library and attend a Medicare help center session. This is a weekly volunteer program where experts on Medicare issues are there to answer all questions.

By the way, the information I am providing is for New York state residents. Different states have different coverage options.

Medicare Program Supplement Insurance

  • Part A & B: hospital and medical coverage.
  • Part C: extended coverage.
  • Part D: prescription drug coverage.

Signing Up

  1. One month before your 65th birthday, you can stop by your local social security office to sign up for Medicare. You can also do it online with your computer. After the initial application, you will be notified to bring some identification to the office. If all checks out, you can expect to receive your Medicare card in the mail in approximately 2-3 weeks.
  2. Sign up for Plan D drug coverage. Even though I am currently healthy and do not require any prescription drugs, I was adviced to take the insurance anyway. This way, I would be covered going forward. If you choose to delay coverage, when you do decide you need it, there will be a penalty payment.
  3. Select a plan for extended coverage. Currently, in New York State, there are 9 companies that offer insurance coverage. In my case, the cheapest plan is the HDF with First United American Insurance Company. This plan is ideal for people who are basically healthy. It does carry a $2100 cap, which means I would be responsible for the first $2100 per year. The good news is if I ever get a serious disease, I can switch to a more expensive plan at any time of the year. Once I am recovered, I can switch back. This is good information to know.

My Choices and Costs

The bottom line for me in 2016:

  • Medicare basic - $121.80 per month (based on my income level)
  • Extended coverage Plan HDF - $62.0 per month (First United American)
  • Plan D drug coverage - $18.40 per month (Humana Insurance)

Total yearly costs: $2426.40.

Payment options. With each coverage, you can choose how to make payments. Since I have not collected on Social Security benefits, I decided to receive a monthly statement bill. Once I sign up for Social Security in the future, I can choose to have the premium deducted from my benefits automatically.

Other Insurances

Unfortunately, dental and vision insurances that are typical of employer provided plans are not available under Medicare. In my case, I can continue coverage under my wife's employer for now. But, when she retires in a few years, we will need to obtain our own dental and vision insurance.

Warning

Upon turning 65, you will be bombarded with calls and mails from various groups and insurance companies. They want your business. You will also receive lots of documents from the Social Security office. For the most part, you can ignore them.

You do need to follow-up after you signed up. Medicare is renewed every year. You can change your options every year depending on your circumstances.

How Does It Work?

I just went to my family physician for my yearly checkup. As far as paperwork, there is no difference. The office will send their bill to Medicare first, and the remaining balance will be forwarded to the supplemental Insurance company. They will send me a bill for any remaining charges.

Summary

I am grateful for all the help from my local public library. A big shout out to the Shrub Oak Library. Their volunteer staff has helped me navigate this process easily.

Questions & Answers

  • what is the best dental plan for seniors at the lowest cost?

    I would look into MetLife, they seem to have the best coverage with regard to dental.

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