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Ask the Expert: Guidelines on starting Medicare coverage

I’ll turn 65 this year. As a retiree, I currently receive medical benefits from my former employer. I know that at 65, Medicare becomes my primary coverage. I’m told to apply three months before my birthday. What’s the procedure? Also, I’m currently receiving Social Security benefits as a widower.

If you already receive Social Security benefits, you don’t have to do anything. You’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare when you turn 65.

People who are not yet receiving Social Security must telephone Medicare at 800-633-4227 to enroll. Those for whom Medicare will become primary health insurance at 65 — and that includes people who currently have retiree medical benefits from a former employer — have a six-month Medicare enrollment window. The window opens three months before their 65th birthday and ends three months after that birthday. It’s smart to sign up at least one month before turning 65 because Medicare starts the month after you enroll.

As a current Social Security beneficiary, you’ll receive a letter from Medicare three months before your 65th birthday saying you’ve been automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A (for hospital coverage) and Part B (for doctors’ services). Part A is free. The letter will explain that your monthly Part B premium will be automatically deducted from your Social Security check.

You’ll also be given the option to turn down Medicare Part B, but that only makes sense for 65-year-olds who have alternative primary health insurance through their own or their spouse’s current employment at a company with more than 20 workers. In your case, as you already know, you’ll need Part B because retiree coverage becomes secondary when you turn 65.


Social Security beneficiaries are automatically enrolled in Medicare at 65.



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