Many people qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A hospital insurance when they turn 65 or have a disability. But Part B outpatient coverage must be elected separately by enrolling and paying a monthly premium. If you were automatically enrolled in Part A but don’t have Part B, here is how to sign up to add Medicare Part B.
Enrolling in Part B if You Have Part A
Medicare Part A helps cover inpatient hospital stays, skilled nursing facility care, hospice, and some home healthcare services.
Medicare Part B covers doctor visits, preventive care, lab tests, x-rays, durable medical equipment, mental health services, and ambulance transportation.
Most people need both Part A and Part B for comprehensive Medicare coverage. They work together to reduce your out-of-pocket medical costs.
If you already have Medicare Part A, here are steps to take to get signed up for Part B:
1. Check your initial enrollment period
This is the 7-month window around your 65th birthday when you can sign up for any part of Medicare (Part A, Part B and/or Part D prescription drug coverage).
- Begins 3 months before you turn 65
- Includes month you turn 65
- Ends 3 months after you turn 65
2. Apply online or contact Social Security
You can enroll online through Social Security or Medicare.gov. Or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.
3. Consider special enrollment periods
If you’re past your initial enrollment period, you may qualify for a special enrollment period due to job-based coverage ending.
4. Understand late enrollment penalties
If you don’t have a special enrollment period, late enrollment penalties may apply if you were eligible for Part B but didn’t sign up.
Let’s look at more details on each of these steps for enrolling in Medicare Part B.
Your 7 Month Initial Enrollment Period
The best time to sign up for Medicare Part B is during your initial enrollment period – the first 7 months you’re eligible to enroll.
This enrollment window begins 3 months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends 3 months after you turn 65.
If you already have Medicare Part A and want to add Part B, you can conveniently do so online through Social Security or Medicare.gov during your initial enrollment period.
You can also call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 to enroll by phone or set up an appointment at your local Social Security office.
Enrolling in Part B during your initial enrollment period prevents any late enrollment penalties down the road if you decide to add it later.
How to Apply for Medicare Part B
You have the option to apply for Medicare Part B coverage in the following ways:
- Online – Visit the Social Security website or Medicare.gov to sign up electronically. Create an account and enroll securely online.
- By phone – Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. You can complete your enrollment by speaking with a representative.
- In person – Make an appointment at your local Social Security office to enroll in person.
When applying, Social Security will verify some personal information like your date of birth and work history. Having details like your Social Security number and Medicare number handy simplifies the process.
If you’re not yet receiving Social Security retirement benefits, you may need to complete additional forms to establish eligibility for premium-free Part A coverage based on your work history.
You can also apply for Social Security retirement benefits at the same time you enroll in Medicare if you want both to start when you turn 65. Your Social Security benefits will automatically be reduced by the monthly Part B premium.
Take Advantage of Special Enrollment Periods
If you missed enrolling in Part B during your initial enrollment period, special enrollment periods can provide another opportunity to sign up without late enrollment penalties.
Special enrollment periods are available when:
- You have job-based health coverage through your own or your spouse’s current employment.
- You have COBRA coverage under a former employer that extends past age 65.
- You move back to the U.S. after living abroad.
A special enrollment period allows you to sign up for Part B without penalties typically from the month your other coverage ends.
For job-based coverage, you get up to an 8 month special enrollment period. Make sure to enroll in Part B before this period ends to avoid the late penalties.
Understand Late Enrollment Penalties
If you don’t sign up for Part B when you’re first eligible and don’t qualify for a special enrollment period, you may have to pay late enrollment penalties if you enroll later.
Medicare Part B late enrollment penalties include:
- 10% penalty for every 12 months you delayed enrolling
- Penalty is applied to your monthly Part B premium
- Penalty you must pay for as long as you have Part B coverage
- No upper limit on the size of the penalty
Before going without Part B, consider whether the ongoing penalty is worth it compared to the cost of premiums. Weigh your total healthcare expenses with and without comprehensive Medicare coverage.
Optimal Timing to Enroll in Part B
Enrolling in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period or special enrollment period eliminates any worry about late penalties. Ideally time your enrollment so Part B coverage begins:
- The month you turn 65 if retiring
- When your job-based health coverage ends if still employed
- The month after your group health plan ends if retiring later
This ensures you transition smoothly onto Medicare without gaps in coverage.
Coordinating with Other Types of Insurance
If you have retiree or COBRA coverage in addition to Medicare, the different policies will coordinate benefits based on Medicare rules. Make sure both insurance companies have accurate information about your dual enrollments.
You can have Medigap or Medicare Advantage Plans in addition to Part B coverage to limit out-of-pocket costs not covered by Medicare.
The Medicare Part B Effective Date
Once you successfully enroll, Medicare Part B coverage begins the first day of the month after the month you sign up. For example, if you enroll in March, your Part B start date would be April 1st.
After enrolling, you’ll receive a Medicare card showing your Part B effective date. You can begin using Part B coverage on that date.
- Add Medicare Part B to supplement your existing Part A coverage
- Enroll online or through Social Security during your 7 month initial enrollment period
- Special enrollment periods can provide another chance to sign up penalty-free
- Paying the Part B premium gives you comprehensive coverage and reduces healthcare costs
Getting both Part A and Part B gives you full Original Medicare coverage. Sign up at age 65 or when ending other health insurance to transition smoothly onto Medicare.
We’re Here to Help
You do not have to spend hours reading articles on the internet to get answers to your Medicare questions. Give the licensed insurance agents at American Entitlements a Call at (469) 814-0289. You will get the answers you seek in a matter of minutes, with no pressure and no sales pitch. We are truly here to help.
I want to sign up for Medicare but missed my initial enrollment period. What should I do? If you missed your initial enrollment period and no longer have group health plan coverage, you will need to wait until the general enrollment period which runs from January 1 to March 31 each year to add Medicare. Your Medicare coverage will then start on July 1 and you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty.
How do I get Part B if I’m eligible for Medicare but don’t receive Social Security? : If you’re eligible for Medicare but not yet receiving Social Security, you’ll need to proactively enroll in Part B by filling out an application form. Be sure to complete Section B of the form to get Part B coverage without delay.
What if my group health plan coverage is ending, can I get Part B early? If your group health plan coverage from active employment is ending, you may qualify for a special enrollment period to sign up for Part B earlier than your normal enrollment date without penalty. Contact the Social Security Administration to find out if you’re eligible.
When does Medicare Part B coverage start if I enroll before my 65th birthday? If you enroll in Part B the month after you enroll and are enrolled months before turning 65, your coverage will generally begin on the first of the month you turn 65.
How can I make sure I’m automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A? As long as you are eligible for Medicare and have at least 40 quarters of Medicare-covered employment, you should be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A when you start receiving Social Security or disability benefits. Make sure the SSA has your correct information on file.
Q: What’s the deadline if I want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan for 2023? A: The annual enrollment period to join a Medicare Advantage Plan for 2023 coverage is October 15th – December 7th each year. This allows you to change plans or switch to a MA plan if you currently only have Original Medicare.
Q: How do I get a Medicare card after enrolling? A: After successfully enrolling online or by mailing in your application forms and evidence of eligibility, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will mail you a new plastic Medicare card within 2 weeks to 3 months showing your new Medicare coverage has begun.
What’s the premium for Part B in 2023? : The standard monthly premium amount most people will pay for Medicare Part B medical insurance coverage in 2023 is $164.90. However, higher income individuals may pay more due to an Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount based on their tax return.
If I have ESRD, when does my Medicare coverage begin? If you have end-stage renal disease and need dialysis or a kidney transplant, you may be eligible for Medicare coverage even if you aren’t yet age 65. Your coverage usually begins with the fourth month of dialysis as an ESRD patient.
How do I create a MyMedicare.gov account? To access Medicare’s online services, start by going to the MyMedicare.gov site. Click on “Sign In/Register” and then “Create an account” to set up your username and password. Be sure to have your Medicare number handy to complete Section B and create your secure account.