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 a lot of requirements, guidelines, and questions — particularly ones related to age.
Are you confused about age and Medicare? Here are seven myths about Medicare, and the truth you might not know.
Myth #1: You Can Apply For Medicare at 62
Many people think they’ll be eligible to enroll in Medicare when they turn 62. For most people, however, the average age of eligibility is actually 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.
Some situations will have exceptions. For example, if you have a disability and qualify for benefits through SSDI, you can also get Medicare. Generally, though, people aren’t eligible to enroll in Medicare until they’re 65.
Myth #2: You’re Automatically Enrolled in Medicare at 65
Not everyone is automatically enrolled in Medicare. If you are receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. People who are automatically enrolled in Medicare will receive their Medicare card in the mail three months before their 65th birthday, or their 25th month of disability.
If you aren’t getting either of these types of retirement benefits, it’s your responsibility to enroll yourself in a Medicare plan by calling the SSA, visiting your local office, or applying online.
Myth #3: Medicare Will Contact You When It’s Time to Enroll
Medicare does not contact you directly when it’s time for you to enroll. It’s your job to educate yourself about enrollment periods and to remember to sign up on your own.
If you receive an email, phone call, or other piece of communication claiming to be from Medicare and asking for personal information, this is 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 — maybe your Medicare card is stolen, or you think someone is charging Medicare for a service you did not receive — call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
Myth #4: If You’ve Never Worked, You Can’t Get Medicare
Many people think that if you did not work before retirement, you can’t get Medicare. For many Americans, Medicare is available at no cost because those people have worked for 10+ (recent) years.
However, you might still be eligible even if you don’t have a recent or lengthy work history. 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 (people who work contribute due to their earnings being taxed). You’ll pay either $278 or $506 each month for Part A, and will also need to purchase Part B.
Myth #5: Medicare and Medicaid Are The Same
Medicare and Medicaid are two separate programs. They are both government programs that help people pay for medical care. However, Medicare is intended for people who are 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
People who are age 65+ are not the only individuals who can get Medicare. Medicare is also available for younger people with disabilities, and for people who have certain medical conditions.
If you aren’t 65 yet, you may still qualify for Medicare if you have a disability. To qualify, you’ll need to have either received Social Security Disability Insurance (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
Medicare registration is not always open. If you’re looking to enroll in a plan, you’re only able to do so at certain times.
Medicare’s Annual Open Enrollment Period occurs each year from October 15th to December 7th. Your personal Initial Enrollment Period will take place three months before the month of your 65th birthday through three months after (for most people). If you are enrolling in a Medicare plan because of a disability, your Initial Enrollment Period will take place once you’ve received disability benefits for 24 months.
Keep in mind, too, that each enrollment period has strict guidelines about who qualifies and how to apply. People who don’t follow these requirements may end up paying penalties. Make sure you’re playing by the rules by speaking with a Bankers Life agent who can guide you and answer any questions.
Bankers Life and Casualty Company is a private company that is not Medicare, Medicaid or MaineCare and is not a governmental agency.