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Covering the Bases: 22 Jan 2012 21:54 #44

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Covering the Bases: When am I supposed to enroll into Medicare?
By AMY RUBINO, For The Capital
Published 01/22/12

My 65th birthday is coming up, and I was wondering if I am automatically enrolled into Medicare or do I need to do something to enroll?

If you are currently drawing Social Security cash benefits (i.e., you receive a Social Security check), you will receive your Medicare card in the mail. However, many people do not begin drawing Social Security at age 65; rather, they elect to begin their Social Security cash benefits at a later date. If you are not currently receiving a Social Security cash benefit, you will not automatically receive your Medicare card. You will need to contact Social Security to enroll into Medicare. You may contact Social Security by calling 1-800-772-1213 or on-line at .

Do I need to enroll into Medicare at age 65?

It is advised that everyone turning 65 learn about their Medicare options. Medicare Parts A (hospital) and Part B (medical) have three enrollment periods. The Initial Enrollment Period occurs when you turn 65. The Special Enrollment Period occurs if you (or your spouse) are currently working and carry insurance through that employer. Medicare also has an annual General Enrollment Period. However, if you enroll during the annual General Enrollment Period, you will have a late enrollment penalty for Part B, and you will have a delay in coverage.

There are other variables that may affect your decision. For example, if you are self-employed or work for a small employer group, you may need to enroll into Medicare at age 65. If you are covered under COBRA insurance, you need to watch your timing of enrolling into Medicare. If you are eligible for Medicare due to a disability, there are other factors to consider. The Department of Aging and Disabilities offers free, confidential, personalized counseling through the Senior Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). You may contact SHIP at 410-222-4464, ex 3080 to review your Medicare options. SHIP does not sell insurance; rather, SHIP provides information to help you make informed decisions.

I have been reviewing my Medicare Summary Notices. On most charges, I have to pay a 20 percent co-insurance; other charges are covered at 100 percent. Could you help me understand the difference? I applaud your diligence in reviewing your Medicare Summary Notices. Medicare Part B (medical and outpatient services) has a yearly deductible of $140. Once the deductible is met, Medicare pays 80 percent of the allowed amount. You, or your secondary insurance, are billed the remaining 20 percent. There are some Medicare services that Medicare pays 100 percent. Most lab tests and some preventive services are covered 100 percent by Medicare. For more information about Medicare's coverage, please visit or call 1-800-Medicare.

Amy Rubino is the director of the Senior Health Insurance Assistance Program for the Anne Arundel County. Department of Aging and Disabilities. You can reach SHIP at 410-222-4464 or

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