Many people believe that you have to file your Social Security benefits to enroll in Medicare. However, it’s not true. You can enroll in Medicare irrespective of the status of your Social Security benefits. However, there are a few factors that vary.
The Social Security retirement age for most baby boomers is 66, and you get a relatively lesser monthly payment if you claim at an early age. Consequently, some retirees delay requests to qualify for larger monthly payments later in retirement.
However, the Medicare eligibility age is 65 years. So, if you want to wait until you become of age 66 or older to claim Social Security, you must register for Medicare separately at age 65.
Here is what you need to know about registering for Medicare before claiming Social Security:
- Both are separate decisions.
- Some people are automatically enrolled in Medicare.
- Remember to claim for Medicare on time.
- Registering for Medicare after missing the initial registration period may result in penalties.
- Working beneficiaries can avoid Medicare late enrollment penalties.
- Be prepared for the Medicare bill.
- Don’t wait until age sixty-five to start researching your Medicare plans.
Medicare provides significant health benefits to millions of senior citizens of age 65 and older. Likewise, Social Security is an essential source of income for countless retirement benefits. And while these two often go together, you don’t need to file for Social Security to receive coverage under Medicare.
Medicare coverage starts at age 65, and your initial enrollment period begins three months before you turn sixty-five and ends three months after the month you turned 65. But whether you retire at 65 or still work, you are allowed to enroll in Medicare without filing for Social Security at the same time.
Under current laws, in some instances, most people become eligible for Social Security benefits at the age of sixty-two and Medicare at age sixty-five. However, claiming Social Security as soon as you qualify is rarely a good idea. Unless you’re facing a financial crisis or debilitating illness, it’s best to wait until full retirement age (sixty-six or sixty-seven, depending on your birth year) to claim your benefits. If you claim before the full retirement age, your benefits will be decreased.
In addition, for each year you wait to claim social security beyond your full retirement age, your monthly benefits will increase by 8% (up to age 70). In most cases, this means that individuals who plan to increase their Social Security benefits will end up enrolling in Medicare before claiming Social Security.
People claiming Social Security earlier get often automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. Their Medicare card arrives in the mail three months before they turn sixty-five. They receive a Medicare welcome package, and Medicare Part B premiums get set to be deducted from their monthly social security check.
If you’re not yet getting Social Security benefits, the process looks a little different.
- You must enroll yourself in Medicare Parts A and B during the initial registration period.
- The initial registration period begins three months before your 65th birthday and lasts for the next four months, including your birthday’s month.
- You can enroll in Medicare online, over the phone, or in person at your local Social Security office.
Make sure that you mark your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) on your calendar. Notably, failing to claim Medicare Part B (medical insurance) on time will result in a penalty for late enrollment after you have registered.
In addition, for every 12-month period for which you were eligible for Part B but failed to register, your premium will increase by 10%. This penalty does not apply to individuals who opt out of Part B or qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) because they are covered by health insurance provided by the current employer. Delayed registration in Medicare Part D and Medicare Supplement or Medigap plans also invite penalties for individuals.
There’s another critical consideration for individuals enrolling in Medicare without claiming Social Security, i.e., the Part B premium bill.
Part B premiums get set to automatically deducted from Social Security benefits if claimed already. But if you don’t yet receive those benefits, you’ll have to pay for the premium separately. In 2019, the average Part B premium was $135.50 per month. However, retirees with incomes over $85,000 and married couples with incomes over $170,000 will have to pay more.
How to Apply for Medicare Without Claiming Social Security
Suppose you are eligible for Medicare but do not currently receive Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits. In that case, you can file Part A and B in Medicare using three different periods.
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): You can enroll in Medicare at any time during the seven months, including the three months before, the month, and the three months after your 65th birthday. The date your Medicare coverage begins depends on when you sign up.
- If you enroll in the first three months of your IEP, coverage begins the month you first become eligible for Medicare.
- If you register during the fourth month of your IEP, the coverage will start from the month following the month of registration.
- If you register during the fifth month of your IEP, the coverage will start from the second month of the month of registration.
- If you register during the sixth or seventh month of your IEP, coverage will start from the third month of the month of registration.
The Special Enrollment Period (SEP): SEP is a period outside the regular registration period triggered by particular circumstances.
The Part B SEP allows you to defer enrollment in Medicare Part B without penalty if you had insurance based on your spouse’s current employment (on-the-job insurance).
After you lose your group health insurance or you (or your spouse) stop working, whichever comes first, you can enroll in Medicare without penalty for up to eight months.
Medicare coverage begins the 1st month after you enroll. For example, if you retire in February and sign up for Medicare, your coverage will begin on March 1. To avoid coverage gaps, sign up for Medicare one month before your job-based insurance expires.
General Enrollment Period (GEP): If you didn’t enroll in Medicare when you first became eligible (either during your IEP or SEP), you could enroll during the GEP. GEP takes place from January 1 to March 31 each year, with coverage beginning from July 1. You may face late Part B enrollment penalties and gaps in coverage if you enroll during the GEP.
You can enroll in Medicare in any of these periods without activating your Social Security benefits. In addition, it is always recommended to enroll in Medicare in the first three months of your IEP as it ensures that you’ll start receiving healthcare coverage from the month you turn 65.
If you’re overwhelmed with too many Medicare plans and don’t understand what plan to choose with respect to your medical needs, contact our experienced insurance agents specialized in Medicare.