Step One: Applying for your Medicare Card

Your Medicare card looks like the one below other than you will have your own unique Medicare number and the name on it will be your name and not Roger That, unless your name happens to be Roger That.  


If you are about to turn 65, and are already taking Social Security you won’t need to apply for Medicare because your Medicare card will come to you automatically in the mail around three months before your Medicare start date, which is on the first day of the month you turn 65.

If you are not currently taking Social Security then you will need to apply for your Medicare card. The easiest way to do this is to go to SSA.Gov and follow the steps.  Let us know if you have any questions or need any help.

Signing Up For Medicare: If You Are Turning 65

Let’s start with this. When you turn 65 your Medicare will always start on the first day of the month in which you turn 65. For instance, if your birthday is April 12, then your Medicare will begin April 1. The exception is if your birthday is on the first day of a month, such as April 1, in which case your Medicare will start a month earlier on March 1. The government has a very good reason for this (at least, we assume they do). But the government is not telling us what this very good reason is.

If your birthday is any of the month other that on the 1st, your period to sign up is any time during the three months prior to your birth month. For instance, if your birthday is May 28, your signup period for Medicare will begin February 1, with the start date for your Medicare being May 1.

Signing Up For Medicare: If You’re Over 65 And Leaving Group Health Coverage

Now that you are retiring, lucky you, you’ll soon get to eat your lunches at home, unless you are one of the three people on earth who enjoy workplace cafeteria food. There is more luck too.  Because you’ll get a Special Enrollment Period to join Medicare.

If you are leaving Group coverage, and you are older than 65, then there are a couple extra matters you will need to know about. Firstly, the government needs to know that you had Group Health coverage from the time you turned 65, and being the government, you don’t just click a box and they don’t take your word for it. You will need to submit proof called “Evidence of Credible Coverage”. You typically get these proof forms from your HR Department which you then submit along with your application for Medicare Part B to Medicare. Your HR Department will supply the forms that you need.

Second, the process will take a few weeks longer, so I always tell clients to apply 60 days ahead of when you want your Medicare to start. If you wait too long you could get stuck for a month in the dreaded COBRA.

Thirdly, if you are paying into a Health Savings Account (HSA) you must stop making payments into your HSA a full-six months prior to applying for either Medicare Part A or Part B. If you don’t wait the six months you will face tax penalties. If you don’t know what an HSA even is, don’t worry, it means you probably don’t have one.           

Signing Up For Medicare: Other Special Joining Circumstances

Medicare provides the opportunity to join under special circumstances. The most common is for people with a disability. If you are eligible for Social Security Disability benefits then you will automatically be eligible for Medicare no matter your age. There is, however, a 24-month waiting period prior to being eligible.

Once you join Medicare, should your circumstances change, you may also be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period to change your plan. For instance, if you are on a Medicare Advantage plan and you move to a different state or even a different county in the same state you will get as Special Enrollment Period to join a different Medicare Advantage plan in your new location. 

How Long It Takes To Get a Medicare Card?

The timing of getting their Medicare card is of number one importance to most people. After all nobody wants to find themselves about to be attacked by a bear thinking, “I have two problems. Bear. And, no health insurance coverage.”

Your Medicare card takes 3 to 4 weeks to be approved and then come in the mail so make sure you give yourself plenty of time prior to when you want your Medicare to commence. People applying for Medicare because they are leaving Group Health coverage will need more time because of the extra paperwork involved and should plan for it taking around 60 days.    

Understanding Medicare Part A, Part B and Part D (and confusing Part C)

The government breaks Medicare into three parts: A, B and D.

Part A is hospital coverage (and a few other things such as hospice care).

Part B covers just about everything else medical including doctors, lab work and medical tests.  

Part D covers prescription drug coverage.

Part C is Medicare Advantage.  You will have the option of either having Original or Traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage which includes Parts A, B and D.  You will need to select one or the other, Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage. You can never have both Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage at the same time.

For most people Part A is Free. Part B you will pay $164.90 a month which you pay directly to the government through Social Security. If you are taking Social Security the $164.90 will be deducted from your social security amount.  If you are not taking Social Security, no problem, as the government will always find a way to take your money. Social Security will bill you and you will be able to set up an account at MyMedicare.Gov to pay it in a variety of ways.

Note: If you earn more than $190,000 a year as a joint filer or $$95,000 a year as a single filer, guess what, the government will want you to pay more money for your Part B, called IRMAA. (Income Related Medicare Additional Amount).  More on this in the section on IRMAA.

Is It Mandatory to sign Up for Medicare?

We all hate penalties. That is why when we catch a glimpse of the photo radar machine flash us as we drive by 10 miles over the speed limit, it ruins are day.  

If you are 65 years old and don’t want to sign up for Medicare the key is what other insurance you have. If it is Group coverage and there are more than 20 employees, you are fine. You will not be sent to the penalty box or face any added costs when you do sign up for Medicare

If you have Veterans coverage, it’s complicated, and I suggest you contact us.

Most every other type of insurance such as Obamacare or other individual health insurances are not considered credible healthcare coverage by Medicare. Because of this, unless you sign up for Medicare at age 65, you will face penalties including adding an extra 10% (or $16.40) to your Part B payment for every year past the age of 65 in which you don’t sign up for Part B. There is also a second substantial penalty if you don’t have Medicare approved prescription drug coverage. These penalties for being tardy with Medicare can quickly add up to Ouch!