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By Linda Howard
Resource Specialist, Seeley-Swan Resource Center 

How to enroll in Medicare during COVID-19

A Note from Linda

 

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Linda Howard, Resource Specialist, Seeley-Swan Resource Center, 406-541-7688

What is Medicare?

Medicare is federally supported health insurance for:

• People age 65 or older

• Anyone on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

• Anyone with End-Stage Renal Disease or ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease)

How do you enroll in Medicare?

The Social Security office processes Medicare enrollment applications. During the coronavirus public health emergency, local Social Security offices are closed to in-person appointments with the public. Here are some important scenarios.

• If you are drawing Social Security benefits, enrollment in Medicare Parts A and B is automatic. You can enroll up to three months before the month of your 65th birthday, and then Medicare will be effective the first day of the month, of your birth month when you turn 65.

• If you are NOT drawing Social Security benefits, you may sign up for Medicare Parts A and B online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices. Many people can use the online application to apply for Medicare Parts A and B for the first time. Before you decide to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B, make certain that you do not want to defer enrollment in Part B. If you have creditable health insurance through your employer or your spouse's employer, you may want to delay taking Part B.

• Not all Medicare applications can be done online. For example, people cannot enroll online if they are using the Part B Special Enrollment Period (SEP) after losing their job-based insurance. In these cases, the individual can still enroll in Medicare through their local Social Security office in Missoula.

If you cannot enroll in Medicare online, here is what you should do.

Gather necessary paperwork:

• To enroll in Medicare Part B, an individual should complete form CMS 40B, the application for Medicare enrollment.

• If you recently lost your job and job-based insurance, you will also submit form CMS L564.

• Both of these forms are available at http://www.coms.gov or from your local SHIP counselor Linda Howard, Seeley-Swan Resource Specialist, 406-541-7688.

• An employer usually fills out Section B of the form CMS L564, but at this time you are allowed to fill out Section B on the employer's behalf, but you should not sign it.

• Submit proof of employment or health insurance coverage.

Mail documents via certified mail to the Missoula Social Security office address: 3701 American Way, Missoula, MT 59808 or fax them to 1-833-515-0415. To contact the Missoula Social Security office directly call 1-866-931-9029. Document the name of the representative you speak to and the date and time of the conversation.

It is important to note that people who get Medicare usually supplement it with either a Medicare Advantage Plan, or Medicare Supplement Policy and Medicare Part D-prescription drug coverage.

• When you retire or lose employer-based coverage, you have eight months to start Medicare Part B without a penalty but only two months to start Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D.

• You have six months to get a Medicare Supplement Policy with a "Guaranteed Issue Right" after you start Medicare Part B. This is the best time to buy a Medicare Supplement Policy because an insurance company cannot turn you down or raise premiums based on your health. After your "Guaranteed Issue Right" you can still shop for a Medicare Supplement Policy, but insurance companies can refuse to sell you a policy or raise premiums based on your health history.

During this coronavirus public health emergency, if you need assistance applying for Medicare or understanding what options are available for Medicare Supplements, Medicare Advantage Plans or prescription drug coverage please call me. I am available Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. for phone appointments.

Please stay safe,

Linda

 

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