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Apply for Medicare Part B when you need it

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By Elaine Zimmermann

Henry:  I will be turning 65 in a few weeks.  If I apply for Medicare now, but am still working full time and on my company's insurance medical coverage, do I need Part B now?  If I wait to start paying for part B until I retire or begin drawing my social security next year, will I be penalized?  If I do need to begin Part B when I apply for Medicare, how do I pay for it?  I know if I was drawing my Social Security it would be deducted.

Elaine:  I received many emails like Henry's.  I will answer Henry's questions so all of our readers can benefit from the answers. 

The first part of Henry's question is if you already have medical coverage from your current employer do you need Part B?

The simple answer is there is no way to accurately answer this question.  According to Medicare, "The answer varies with each person and the kind of other health insurance you may have".  They advise, "Get in touch with your insurance agent to see how your private plan fits with Medicare medical insurance."

The second portion of Henry's question is if I wait to purchase Part B until after I begin drawing Social Security benefits, will I be penalized?

According to Medicare, "If you are 65 or older and are covered under a group health plan, either from your own or your spouse's current employer, you have a "special enrollment period" in which to sign up for Medicare Part B.  This means that you may delay enrolling in Medicare Part B without having to wait for a general enrollment period and paying the 10 percent premium surcharge for late enrollment. The rules allow you to:

  • Enroll in Medicare Part B any time while you are covered under the group health plan based on current employment; or
  • Enroll in Medicare Part B during the eight-month period that begins following the last month your group health coverage ends, or following the month employment ends—whichever comes first.

Special enrollment period rules do not apply if employment or employer-provided group health plan coverage ends during your initial enrollment period."

The final part of Henry's question regards how he will pay for Part B if he is not drawing Social Security benefits.  (He correctly confirmed that if he were receiving Social Security benefits, the payments for Part B would automatically be deducted.)

Again, according to the Medicare website, "Medicare will bill you directly for your premiums from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Medicare Premium Collection Center, P.O. Box 790355, St. Louis, MO 63179.  You can choose to pay by check or money order, credit card, or have it automatically deducted from your bank account.  Payments cannot be taken over the phone.

To make sure your payment is processed on time, payments made by check, money order, or credit card must be received by the 25th of the each month not to be considered late. 

Elaine Zimmermann is a personal finance expert who was written about everyday ways to save money on cars, homes, vacations and more. For information on investing in foreclosed real estate you can visit her website at www.AskElaineZ.com.

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