CLAIM offers free help to navigate details and enrollment deadlines

People who are approaching their 65th birthday or might be planning to retire need to make plans ahead of time to enroll in Medicare. The simplest way to enroll in Medicare is to enroll online at www.socialsecurity.gov or to call for free assistance from CLAIM at 1-800-390-3330.

“We will assist you and walk you through that process,” said Carol Beahan, executive director of CLAIM, the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for Missouri. CLAIM will mark its 25th year as Missouri’s SHIP later this year.

Individuals who are already receiving Social Security cash benefits will automatically be enrolled for Medicare insurance. Others who are new to Social Security either because they are turning 65 or planning to retire won’t automatically receive a Medicare card, Beahan said.

It’s also important to know enrollment deadlines and plan ahead. Your initial enrollment period takes place three months before turning 65, the month of the 65th birthday, and three months after.

“Be thinking ahead about this important decision,” Beahan said. “You can enroll during that seven-month period with no penalty.” The date that benefits begin depends on the enrollment date. If an individual misses that seven-month window, she or he can sign up for Medicare during a general enrollment period that lasts from January through March, although coverage wouldn’t begin until July 1.

The individual also has the option of enrolling in Medicare Part A – hospitalization coverage – and delaying Part B coverage if the individual is still working or still has coverage on a spouse’s active employer plan. If the individual is still covered by a spouse’s employer health insurance plan, she or he will have eight months to enroll in Medicare without penalty after the individual stops working.

Beahan recommended that individuals connect with a CLAIM volunteer for additional details and restrictions about delaying Part B coverage without a penalty. Call for free assistance from CLAIM at 1-800-390-3330.

Part B covers doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services. Part A also covers care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some home health care. Part D is prescription drug coverage and is available from insurance companies approved by Medicare. People new to Medicare will also want to understand supplemental and Medicare Advantage plans that can help cover the portion of Medicare charges that beneficiaries must pay.

For Part A, the deductible for 2018 is $1,340. The monthly premium for Part B, for most people, is $134 in 2018, along with a deductible of $183, after which Medicare will pay 80 percent of allowed charges.

Beahan said CLAIM staff and volunteers are available to help current and new Medicare beneficiaries understand the various options for coverage, as well as the dates and details for initial, general, and special enrollment periods.

CLAIM is a program of the Missouri Department of Insurance through a grant from the Administration for Community Living. Services are provided by Primaris Foundation. CLAIM is not connected or affiliated with any insurance company and does not sell or recommend any insurance.  Claim provides helpful Medicare information. To ask questions or to learn more about Medicare benefits and eligibility and enrollment contact CLAIM at 1-800-390-3330 or visit www.missouriclaim.org. Individuals contacting CLAIM will be contacted by a trained counselor.