Did you neglect to sign up for Medicare when you first became eligible? Well, you’ve now got a second chance thanks to the general enrollment period.
But don’t sleep on this opportunity; the deadline is fast approaching!
Medicare deadline: Act fast before March 31
According to Medicare.gov, we’re now in the midst of the general enrollment period for Medicare. This is true every year between January 1 and March 31.
The general enrollment period allows you to sign up for Part A, Part B or both plans at once.
As a reminder, Part A and Part B cover your main health care costs, such as hospital and outpatient care, through government-provided insurance.
Meanwhile, Medicare Part D offers prescription drug coverage through private insurance carriers. And Part C (aka Medicare Advantage) actually combines Parts A and B and adds additional benefits like vision or dental along with prescription drug coverage.
It’s a crazy alphabet soup, but it’s an important one to understand!
How to sign up for Part A or B during general enrollment
If you sign up for Part A and/or B during the general enrollment period, your coverage will start July 1. Though you should anticipate higher premiums for late enrollment in Part A and/or Part B.
You sign up for Part A by contacting Social Security. Most people get premium-free Part A based on the Medicare taxes they or their spouse paid while working. But under some circumstances, you may have to pay a monthly premium ranging from $232 to $422 in 2018.
If you had to buy Part A, you’ll also have monthly premiums for Part B in most cases. Premiums for Part B have a wider spread than they do for Part A. See this chart that outlines Part B premiums for 2018:
Reminder: There’s a big change coming to Medicare in 2018
A major change is taking place this year for Medicare recipients — and it’s great news for your wallet!
New Medicare cards are on the way
Beginning in April, the first wave of new Medicare cards will be mailed to enrollees. Unlike the old cards, these new ones won’t display your Social Security number!
That should go a long way to protecting consumers from identity theft, much of which happens at medical offices.
The new cards will have an 11-character Medicare Beneficiary Identifier made up of random numbers and uppercase letters. It will be a more secure replacement for the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) you’re used to right now.