This article appeared in the January-February 2015 edition of The American Postal Worker.
General enrollment in Medicare is open from Jan. 1 through March 31, but don’t confuse the general enrollment period with your eligibility enrollment period: You are eligible to enroll in Medicare three months before you turn 65, the month of your 65th birthday, and three months after the month you turn 65.
You will be penalized if you enroll outside of your eligibility period and your options to enroll will be limited.
If you miss your eligibility window, you may sign up only during the general enrollment period at the beginning of the year, with few exceptions. And, if Social Security records reflect that you have enrolled late, you will be required to pay a penalty in addition to the monthly premium. The penalty for enrolling late is 10 percent for each year you delay enrollment in Medicare Part B.
For most USPS retirees, the premium for Medicare Part B for 2015 is $104.90. Medicare B covers medically-necessary services from doctors and other health care providers, ambulance services, outpatient care, home health care, and some preventative services. For a complete list of covered services, visit www.Medicare.gov.
Medicare Part A covers hospitalization and it’s free because you paid for it while you worked for the Postal Service. You are eligible for Medicare Part A if you are over 65, under 65 with certain disabilities, or currently receiving Social Security benefits. If you are covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP) you will not be penalized if you sign-up for Medicare Part A after age 65.
The questions asked most frequently about Medicare are:
How do I enroll? - You can sign up for Medicare by visiting your local Social Security office or by completing an online application at www.socialsecurity.gov. You may also call to request an appointment to enroll by phone by calling 1-800-772-1213; TTY/TDD: 1-877-486-2048.
How do I make the payment for Medicare Part B? - There is a range of options for paying Medicare premiums. You may pay by automatic bill payment through your bank account (also known as Medicare Easy Pay), by check, or the payments may be withheld from your Social Security or annuity benefit. Be clear with Social Security on the payment method you select to avoid a delay in processing your first payments.
Should I keep my Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan and enroll in Medicare Parts A and B as well? - That’s a personal decision; when weighing your options, you should consider your usage of medical services, your ability to pay, and the penalty for enrolling late in Medicare Part B. When you retain your FEHB Plan and enroll in Medicare A and B, Medicare will be your primary payer and your FEHB Plan will cover most of the difference. APWU retirees who are in the APWU Health Plan have expressed appreciation for having both Medicare and our health plan. If you have a FEHB plan other than APWU, you should contact your FEHB plan for advice.
When does Medicare take effect? The date coverage begins depends on when you enrolled. If you enrolled during your 65th birthday enrollment period, coverage starts the first day of your birth month, unless your birthday is on the first day of the month; if your birthday is on the first day of the month, the coverage starts on the prior month. If you enrolled the month after your 65th, there is a delay of one month for each month you delay in getting coverage after turning 65. For example, if you wait one month after your birth month to sign up, coverage will start two months after you sign up. Finally, if you sign up during the general enrollment period, coverage starts on July 1 of that year.
For more information about Medicare, call 1-800-772-1213 or visit www.Medicare.gov.