Three months before your Medicare coverage begins, you’ll receive a Welcome to Medicare package in your mailbox. It will include a Medicare card, similar to the one above; a letter; and a booklet that explains the decisions you’ll need to make before your coverage begins.
You’ll also get a letter reminding you of your benefits about a month before they begin.
Unless you or your spouse have paid less than 40 calendar quarters of Medicare taxes (generally taken automatically from most workers’ paychecks), Part A will be free. And Part B premiums will be deducted automatically from your monthly Social Security benefits.
If your benefits aren’t enough to cover the premium or you stop getting Social Security benefits, you’ll get a bill for your Part B premiums every three months. If you’d prefer to pay your bill automatically, you can sign up for Medicare Easy Pay. Financial assistance is also available if you need help paying your Part B premiums and other Medicare costs.
If you have health insurance from a company with fewer than 20 employees, it’s important to keep Part B to avoid gaps in coverage and a late-enrollment penalty.
If you have health insurance from a company with 20 or more employees, you may want to delay enrolling in Part B because you would have to pay for it, and you will be eligible for a special enrollment period after you lose your employer-based coverage. (You can’t delay your Part A coverage if you’re receiving Social Security benefits and don’t have to pay a premium for Part A.)
Parts A and B, even if you will be enrolled automatically, won’t cover all of your health care costs. If you decide on original Medicare coverage, you’ll still need to enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan if you don’t have coverage through a spouse or from a previous employer and may need to choose a Medigap supplemental insurance plan. You also may want to investigate low-cost dental, hearing and vision plans.
If Medicare Advantage plans intrigue you, you’ll need to sign up for one separately. Sometimes you’ll have to pay extra to participate, and you’ll have additional cost sharing associated with the services you use in those plans.