There’s no way around it: Medicare is confusing. While this government-sponsored health insurance helps millions of Americans each year, it also comes with many requirements, guidelines and questions.
Here are seven myths about Medicare and the truth you might not know from Bankers Life, a national life and health insurance brand.
Myth #1: You Can Apply at 62
Many people think they’ll be eligible to enroll in Medicare when they turn 62. However, the age of eligibility is typically 65. You’ll have seven months (starting three months before you turn 65 and ending three months after the month you turn 65) to sign up — this is called your Initial Enrollment Period.
There are exceptions. For example, if you have a disability and qualify for benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you can also get Medicare.
Myth #2: You’re Automatically Enrolled at 65
If you are receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B and will receive your Medicare card in the mail three months before your 65th birthday, or 25th month of disability.
If you aren’t getting either of these types of retirement benefits, it’s your responsibility to enroll in a Medicare plan by calling the Social Security Administration, visiting your local office, or applying online.
Myth #3: Medicare Will Contact You When It’s Time to Enroll
Medicare won’t contact you directly when it’s time to enroll. If you receive an email, call or other communication claiming to be Medicare and asking for personal information, it’s likely a scam. You should never:
- Give out your Medicare card, Medicare number, Social Security card or Social Security number (except to your doctor or someone else whom you know should have it)
- Accept money or gifts for free medical care
- Let anyone besides your doctor see your medical records
- Join a Medicare plan over the phone (unless you called Medicare yourself)
If you suspect you might be involved in a scam call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
Myth #4: If You’ve Never Worked, You Can’t Get Medicare
For many Americans, Medicare is available at no cost because they worked for 10 or more (recent) years. However, if you (or your spouse or parent) has certain medical conditions or disabilities, you may be able to receive disability benefits and Medicare Part A.
Alternatively, if you don’t qualify for free Medicare, you might be able to purchase Part A. You will need to pay for it because you didn’t “pay into” the federal funds that power Medicare with income tax. You’ll pay either $278 or $506 each month for Part A, and will need to purchase Part B.
Myth #5: Medicare and Medicaid Are The Same
Medicare and Medicaid are separate government programs. Medicare is intended for people at retirement age or who have certain disabilities, while Medicaid primarily serves people who have low income.
Myth #6: Only Retirement Age Individuals Can Get Medicare
Medicare is available for younger people with disabilities or certain medical conditions. To qualify, you’ll need to have either received SSDI for 24 months, or have either End-Stage Renal Disease, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Myth #7: Medicare Registration Is Always Open
You’re only able to enroll in a plan during Medicare’s Annual Open Enrollment Period, occurring each year from October 15 to December 7 and during your personal Initial Enrollment Period.
Keep in mind that each enrollment period has strict guidelines about who qualifies and how to apply. Not following these requirements can result in penalties. Make sure you’re playing by the rules. A financial advisor or licensed insurance agent can help guide you and answer any questions.
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