MEDICARE PART A COVERS in-patient hospital care and the services you might need immediately after, whether at home, at a hospice or at a skilled nursing facility. For instance, Medicare might cover costs for a nursing facility while you are rehabilitating from an injury. It won’t cover a nursing home if all you’re receiving is custodial care, which involves help with daily living activities such as dressing, eating and bathing.
If you are already receiving Social Security retirement benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in Parts A and B at age 65. If not, you can sign up during a seven-month window that begins three months before you turn age 65. To enroll, visit your local Social Security office, apply online at SocialSecurity.gov or call 800-772-1213. To ensure that coverage for Parts A and B starts in the month you turn 65, you will want to sign up during the three months before your birthday.
Those who are eligible to receive any sort of monthly Social Security benefit, including spousal benefits, are also eligible to receive Part A for free, so there’s usually no reason for Social Security recipients not to sign up. While you may not pay a premium for Part A, you will need to meet deductibles and make co-payments.
What if you are employed when you turn age 65? You can still sign up. If you don’t, you can take advantage of a special eight-month enrollment period that typically starts when your employment ends. If you sign up during this period, you won’t pay a penalty for signing up late. That penalty, in any case, is only an issue for those who aren’t eligible to receive Part A for free.
Next: Medicare Part B