Summary: Knowing when and how to sign up for Medicare Part B can help ensure you have coverage when you need it. There are several considerations to make before enrolling in Medicare Part B, especially if you are still working. Below, we’ll review how to apply for Medicare Part B and when you should enroll. Estimated Read Time: 6 min
How To Apply For Medicare Part B
Together, Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B make up Original Medicare. Medicare Part B provides outpatient coverage for Medicare enrollees. Once you sign up for Medicare Part B, you will have coverage for doctors’ appointments, durable medical equipment, lab tests, and more.
When you become eligible for Medicare, you will need to sign up for Medicare Part B through the Social Security Administration. This can be done in one of three ways:
Online: You can apply for Medicare Part B online from the comfort of your own home. This application method is easy and convenient. You will need to visit SSA.gov and create a my Social Security account to get started.
Over the Phone: If you prefer to speak with someone and sign up for Medicare Part B over the phone, you can call Social Security’s toll-free number: 1-800-772-1213.
In-Person: You can apply for Medicare Part B in person at your local Social Security office. Have your required documentation ready and call your nearest office to schedule an appointment.
When applying for Medicare Part B, you’ll want to make sure you have the documentation required to apply for Medicare. Bring these papers with you if you’re applying in person at your local Social Security office. If applying online or over the phone, have your documents nearby to reference during the application process.
When Do I Apply for Medicare Part B?
Applying for Medicare Part B at the right time is essential. Not only can late enrollment cause you to have a lapse in healthcare coverage, but you can also face late enrollment penalties.
If you are already receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits at least four months before turning 65, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B when you turn 65. You will also automatically get Medicare if you receive disability benefits for 24 months.
Even if you qualify for automatic enrollment, you will want to know when your Medicare coverage will begin. This is especially important if you want to delay your Medicare Part B coverage due to having health insurance through a working spouse. You will receive a welcome package and your Medicare card three months prior to when your Medicare coverage starts. To delay your Medicare Part B coverage, you must contact Medicare before the coverage start date printed on your Medicare card.
If you are not getting Medicare automatically, you will be responsible for signing up for both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. Most people apply for Medicare Part B during their Initial Enrollment Period. The Initial Enrollment Period occurs when you first become eligible for Medicare. For many, the Initial Enrollment Period begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes your birthday month, and ends three months later.
Enrolling in Medicare Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period is essential, especially if you are not covered under a job-based group health plan. If you do not enroll in Medicare Part B when you first become eligible and do not have creditable coverage, you will face a late enrollment penalty. You will also have to wait until the General Enrollment Period to sign up, which means you could be without medical coverage for a time.
If you’re signing up for Medicare while still working, you can choose to delay your Medicare Part B coverage. If your employer has over 20 employees, Medicare considers your group coverage creditable. You will qualify for a Special Enrollment Period once your employment (or coverage) ends.
This Special Enrollment Period (SEP) begins the month after your employment or coverage ends and lasts 8 months. During this Special Enrollment Period, you can apply for Medicare Part B without incurring a penalty. When you sign up for Medicare Part B during a SEP, your coverage starts the first day of the month after you sign up.
Can I Sign Up For Medicare Part B Only?
Enrolling in both Medicare Part A, inpatient coverage, and Medicare Part B, outpatient coverage, helps ensure you have well-rounded healthcare coverage. However, there are some instances in which you may sign up for Medicare Part B only.
Most people qualify for a $0 premium for Medicare Part A due to paying Medicare taxes while working for at least 40 quarters. However, some individuals do not qualify and will be required to pay a monthly premium to receive Medicare Part A coverage. In this situation, you may choose not to sign up for Medicare Part A and only sign up for Medicare Part B.
Another instance in which you only sign up for Medicare Part B is if you already have Medicare Part A.
If you delayed your Medicare Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period, you can sign up for Part B only by filling out a CMS-40B form. This form is for individuals who already have Medicare Part A and want to sign up for Medicare Part B. You can use this form during your Initial Enrollment Period, the General Enrollment Period, or a Special Enrollment Period.
If you have a Special Enrollment Period due to loss of group health coverage through an employer or spouse, you must also complete Section A of form CMS-L564. Once complete, the employer will complete Section B. This form is proof of your recent coverage through their plan. You can also sign up for Medicare Part B by itself online if you have lost your employer coverage and qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.
Considerations to Make Before Signing Up for Medicare Part B
Preparing for Medicare enrollment can help ensure you sign up for Medicare Part B when you should. Before signing up for Medicare Part B, here are a few considerations you should make:
|When should I enroll in Medicare Part B?||Is my job-based health plan creditable?||How much will Medicare Part B cost me?|
|Unless you have creditable coverage through an employer, you will want to enroll in Medicare Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period. If you have creditable coverage, you’ll get an 8-month Special Enrollment Period to sign up for Medicare Part B coverage. Remember: you could face a penalty if you don’t sign up for Medicare Part B as soon as you’re eligible (and don’t have creditable coverage).||Knowing whether your employer’s group coverage is creditable will significantly impact your Medicare Part B enrollment. Typically, if your employer has over 20 employees, your coverage will be considered creditable. If you’re unsure if your coverage is creditable, contact your employer’s HR department or benefits coordinator and ask.||Healthcare costs can significantly impact your budget. The standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B in 2023 is $164.90. However, your costs may be higher due to IRMAA (Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount). You may also face a higher monthly premium if you delayed Medicare Part B without creditable coverage and incurred a penalty.|
Learn More About Medicare Part B
Medicare Part B is the medical insurance portion of Medicare, providing coverage for doctor’s visits, outpatient care, durable medical equipment, and preventative services. If you have questions about Medicare Part B enrollment, our team of licensed insurance agents can help. Write down any questions you may have about applying for Medicare Part B and give our team a call at the number above.
Medicare & You 2024, Medicare. Accessed September 2023
Sign Up for Part B Only, Social Security Administration. Accessed September 2023
Avoid Late Enrollment Penalties, Medicare. Accessed September 2023