UNITED STATES—Hello Toni: I am turning 65 in July and am bombarded with mail and telemarketing calls. I am not receiving Social Security and a friend who just got Medicare is receiving her Social Security check. Do I have to be receiving my Social Security check to get Medicare?

Please explain what I should do because I was waiting to apply for Social Security when I can receive 100 percent of my Social Security benefits. Currently, I have an individual health plan with a $6000 deductible and having Medicare benefits would be a blessing. Thanks, Joan from Phoenix, AZ

Hi Joan: Enrolling in Medicare can be very confusing! Most people think that when they turn 65, a magical switch flips on and “poof” they are on Medicare! Medicare does not enroll you into Medicare. Social Security is the governmental agency that enrolls America into Medicare. (Chapter 1 of Toni’s Medicare Survival Guide Advanced edition discusses different situations for enrolling in Medicare the right way.)

Let’s discuss how to take your Medicare at the right time:

Situation 1) Turning 65 and Receiving Your Social Security Check:  This is the simplest way to receive your Medicare card. Social Security will notify Medicare that you have turned 65. Medicare will send your “Welcome to Medicare” kit 90 days before you turn 65 with your Medicare card in the kit. Remember, Social Security processes the paperwork for Medicare. Joan, this was your friend’s situation because she was receiving her Social Security check.

Situation 2) Turning 65 and “still working”- Talk to your employer’s Human Resources department. Ask if you need to enroll in Part B. If you do not need Part B because you are “still working” or your spouse is “still working” and you have health benefits, you may want to delay your “Part B.” You may want to enroll in “Medicare Part A Hospital” only.

Situation 3) Turning 65 and NOT Receiving your Social Security Check and NOT covered by your or your spouse’s employer’s health benefits: Individuals approaching 65 under these circumstances need to initiate their own enrollment online at SSA.gov. It’s a good idea to open an SSA.gov account well before you turn 65. Joan, this is your Medicare situation, because you want to enroll in Medicare and are still working or may not be working but are waiting past 65 to receive 100 percent of your Social Security. (If you have trouble opening a SSA.gov account, contact your local Social Security office or call the Social Security’s 800 number, (800)772-1213 for assistance.)

Now let’s go over how to apply online at www.ssa.gov/medicare/sign-up and what information you’ll need to enroll:

1)       Name, Social Security number, gender, and date of birth.

2)       Contact information including address, phone number, email address.

3)       Citizen information about you with what language you read and speak.

4)       Questions about your health benefits

5)       Then submit your application online and view your receipt, which will alert you to any additional information required such as your marriage license if you are short of the required 40 quarters and need to apply under your spouse’s Medicare benefits, or original citizenship papers, if you are a naturalized citizen.

6)       Your Beneficiary Verification Letter will be available on your Social Security account when your Medicare application is processed. The BVL includes your Medicare number and Part A and/or B effective dates. Your new Medicare Card will arrive by mail, or you can download your Medicare card by going to medicare.gov and accessing your Medicare account. Your Medicare.gov account contains all your Medicare information.

Readers, there are specific Medicare rules which everyone must follow. Remember, with Medicare it’s what you don’t know that WILL hurt you!

Toni’s new course, Confused about Medicare, a downloadable video series, and the “Medicare Survival Guide Advanced” edition available at www.tonisays.com.