Healthcare Answers: Signing up for Medicare

Janiva Toler
Executive Director
Answers Your Questions on Healthcare

Question: I’m almost 65 and have lots of questions about signing up for Medicare.

Answer: Almost all of your questions this last month were about Medicare:

  • Differences between Parts A, B, C, & D
  • Is there a requirement for a physical to sign up for Medicare?
  • How do I get started?
  • Should I sign up for Part A?
  • Does Medicare cover a Christian Science nursing facility?
  • I didn’t sign up for Part B originally–can I sign up now?

I’ll cover some basics about signing up for Medicare in this article. And in addition I will begin to post many of your questions and answers during the month.

Your best source of online information is the www.medicare.gov site. I continue to recommend this site because it is comprehensive, easy to navigate, and has information specific to you. For instance, in the section “getting started” you can click on “find out if you are eligible” and by putting in your information find out if you are eligible for Medicare and when it begins. You can get detailed information about what Medicare covers from Medicare & You 2017 which you can download from the site or call the Medicare toll-free number, 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for a copy.

A reader suggested another information source on Medicare and insurance in Massachusetts that he found very helpful—SHINE (Serving the Health Information Needs of Elders). The SHINE Program provides health insurance counseling services to elderly adults. SHINE counselors are trained to handle complex questions about Medicare, Medicare supplements, Medicare Health Maintenance Organizations, public benefits with health care components, Medicaid, and long-term health insurance. While many of you are not residents of Massachusetts, there are many such programs throughout the US that can be very helpful. Check your yellow pages or Google for elder or senior services in your area. These services will most likely not know about Christian Science coverage in Medicare or insurance or about Christian Science nursing facilities.

What are the parts to Medicare:

  • Part A – Hospital insurance that helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility (following a hospital stay), some home health care and hospice care. Part A also pays for inpatient care in a RNHCI (religious nonmedical healthcare institution) such as the BA. You can check with your local Christian Science nursing facility to see if it is a Medicare provider or at The Commission which accredits most of the RNHCIs. For benefits in a RNHCI such as the BA, click here.
  • Part B – Medical insurance that helps pay for doctors’ services and many other medical services and supplies that are not covered by hospital insurance. Part B is not used at Christian Science nursing facilities but it is necessary to have Part B in order to purchase most Medigap policies.
  • Part C – Medicare Advantage plans are available in many areas. People with Medicare Parts A and B can choose to receive all of their health care services through one of these provider organizations under Part C. Part C while offering less expensive coverage and more benefits rarely pays for coverage in a Christian Science nursing facility.
  • Part D – Prescription drug coverage that helps pay for medications doctors prescribe for treatment. Part D is not applicable for use in a Christian Science nursing facility.

Am I eligible for Medicare?
Most people age 65 or older who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States are eligible for free Medicare hospital insurance (Part A). You are eligible at age 65 if:

  • You receive or are eligible to receive Social Security benefits; or
  • You receive or are eligible to receive railroad retirement benefits; or
  • You or your spouse (living or deceased, including divorced spouses) worked long enough in a government job where Medicare taxes were paid; or
  • You are the dependent parent of a fully insured deceased child.

If you do not meet these requirements, you may be able to get Medicare hospital insurance by paying a monthly premium. Usually, you can sign up for this hospital insurance only during designated enrollment periods.

NOTE: Even though the full retirement age is no longer 65, you should sign up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday.

Physical exam?
One reader asked about the requirement for a physical examination. There is NO requirement for a physical examination to sign up for Medicare. It is only offered as a part of the preventative services.

Sign up for questions and answers posted during the month
I will be posting many of the questions on insurance and Medicare that come in during the month. Send your questions to me by posting below, or for a private response click here.

One Response to Healthcare Answers: Signing up for Medicare

  1. Jan says:

    I will turn 65 in late October 2013, but I’m still working — covered under my State Employee’s Plan and NOT collecting Social Security benefits yet.
    Does this circumstance indicate that I should go get registered with Medicare, and can elect the RNHC type coverage for now, and NOT have to choose any part B yet, since I’m covered by an employer plan? (I hope to work at least another year.)
    Thanks so much !

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