UNITED STATES—Hello Toni: You have been referred to me as a resource that can answer some of the questions I have about Medicare. I am turning 65 this December and have not received anything in the mail regarding what I need to do to begin Medicare?

Like many in the Houston area, I have recently lost my job and am confused as to whether start my social security check? Do I stay on COBRA or enroll in Medicare plans? What if I get another job?

I am sure there are others in Medicare land, which also needs answers to these worrisome, yet semi-simple Medicare questions. Thanks, Jill, Lubbock, TX.

Jill: Our motto at the Toni Says® office is that “your Medicare needs are not the same as your friends,” so discussing your Medicare wants and needs with those who do not know Medicare’s specific rules, can only confuse you.  Below are a few of the Medicare questions you asked about, which we discuss during a Medicare consultation.

  1. Is the Medicare enrollment process automatic?

A: Medicare enrollment is automatic only when you are already claiming your Social Security benefits by the time you turn 65.  Jill, you must not be receiving your Social Security check and this is why you have not received your Medicare card.

If you are not collecting your Social Security check, then Medicare requires you to sign up in a seven-month window which starts 3 months before turning 65, the month you are turning 65 and 3 months after your 65th birthday.  If you have employer coverage through your or your spouse’s employment, then you may want to delay your Medicare Part B.

Failing to sign up at the right time is costly.  The monthly Part B premium penalty is 10 percent for each full 12-month period that you should have been enrolled in Medicare Part B. Penalties also are applied for late enrollment in Part D (prescription drugs).

  1. Should I enroll in Medicare even if I am offered COBRA health insurance when I leave my job?

A: Yes. You should enroll in Medicare Parts A and B when leaving company benefits and enrolling in your company’s COBRA.  Not enrolling in Medicare may keep your COBRA from paying claims because normally COBRA pays the 20 percent and wants Medicare to pay the 80 percent.  No Medicare, then who pays the 80 percent…You do.

In today’s health insurance world, many COBRA health plans will allow the COBRA retiree who has Medicare Parts A and B to opt out of the COBRA plan, while the family remains on COBRA. You can then apply for a Medicare supplement, which can assist in picking up your Medicare Parts A and B Medicare medical out of pocket.

  1. What if I become unemployed or retire, enroll in Medicare and then go back into a full-time job?

A: If your new employer provides health insurance, you can disenroll from Medicare Part B and re-enroll in Part B when you finally retire without paying late enrollment penalties by filling the “Request for Employment” form.

Contact Social Security (1-800-772-1213) and request the form to delay your Medicare Part B because you now have true group health benefits provided by your current employer.

Medicare courses available at ABBS4U.com, can help you understand your Medicare options and educated the public on how to enroll in Medicare properly.

Toni King the author of Medicare Survival Guide® Advanced, is offering a Medicare Open Enrollment book package special at www.tonisays.com. For questions about Medicare email info@tonisays.com or call 844-250-8664.