Quality Of Beneficiary Services
A 2001 study by the Government Accountability Office evaluated the quality of responses given by Medicare contractor customer service representatives to provider questions. The evaluators assembled a list of questions, which they asked during a random sampling of calls to Medicare contractors. The rate of complete, accurate information provided by Medicare customer service representatives was 15%. Since then, steps have been taken to improve the quality of customer service given by Medicare contractors, specifically the 1-800-MEDICARE contractor. As a result, 1-800-MEDICARE customer service representatives have seen an increase in training, quality assurance monitoring has significantly increased, and a customer satisfaction survey is offered to random callers.
If Youre Not Receiving Social Security Retirement Benefits
If youre not already receiving Social security retirement benefits and youre approaching age 65, then you can sign up for Medicare during your initial enrollment period. This is a 7 month window that starts 3 months before, includes the month of your birthday, and ends 3 months after your birthday month. If your birthday falls on the 1st of the month, then your Medicare will begin one month prior to your birthday month.
You can apply online for Medicare Part A and Part B. Or, you can fax or mail in the required forms instead of applying online. Once you apply for Part B, you will also be enrolled in Part A. If a Social Security office is open, then you can apply in person. You also have the option to call and set up a phone appointment.
Its important to know that if you miss your initial enrollment for Part B then you could face a late enrollment penalty.
How To: Enroll In Medicare Part A And Part B
Some people are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B. Some people are not.
You’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B if:
- You’re receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits when you turn 65 or
- You’re eligible for Medicare because of a disability or medical condition.
You must enroll yourself in Medicare Part A and B if:
- You’re not receiving Social Security benefits when you become eligible for Medicare.
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Sign Up: Within 8 Months After You Or Your Spouse Stop Working
- Most people dont have to pay a premium for Part A . So, you may want to sign up for Part A when you turn 65, even if you or your spouse are still working.
- Youll pay a monthly premium for Part B , so you may want to wait to sign up for Part B.
Avoid the penalty & gap in coverageIf you miss this 8-month Special Enrollment Period, youll have to wait to sign up and go months without coverage. You might also pay a monthly penalty for as long as you have Part B. The penalty goes up the longer you wait to sign up. How much is the Part B late enrollment penalty?
Should I Take Medicare Part B
You should take Medicare Part A when you are eligible. However, some people may not want to apply for Medicare Part B when they become eligible.
You can delay enrollment in Medicare Part B without penalty if you fit one of the following categories.
Employer group health plans may cover items normally not covered by Medicare Part B. If so, and you meet one of the categories above or below, then you may not need to enroll in Medicare Part B and pay the monthly premium.
If you are:
- a spouse of an active worker
- a disabled, active worker
- a disabled spouse of an active worker
and choose coverage under the employer group health plan, you can refuse Medicare Part B during the automatic or initial enrollment period. You wait to sign up for Medicare Part B during the special enrollment period, an eight month period that begins the month the group health coverage ends or the month employment ends, whichever comes first.
You will not be enrolling late, so you will not have any penalty.
If you choose coverage under the employer group health plan and are still working, Medicare will be the “secondary payer,” which means the employer plan pays first.
If the employer group health plan does not pay all the patient’s expenses, Medicare may pay the entire balance, a portion, or nothing. An employer group health plan must be primary or nothing.
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Top 5 Things You Need To Know About Medicare Enrollment
1. People are eligible for Medicare for different reasons.
Some are eligible when they turn 65. People under 65 are eligible if they have received Social Security Disability Insurance or certain Railroad Retirement Board disability benefits for at least 24 months. If they have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis , theres no waiting period for Medicare. Some people with End Stage Renal Disease may be eligible for Medicare. Its important to know the different ways that people qualify for Medicare so you can help current and former employees and their dependents anticipate their eligibility for Medicare so they can make timely and appropriate decisions about their enrollment.
People living in the United States and U.S. Territories who are already collecting Social Securityeither disability or retirementare automatically enrolled into Part A and Part B when theyre first eligible. These people will get a packet of information a few months before they turn 65 or receive their 25th month of Social Security Disability or Railroad Retirement Board benefits. At that time, they can choose to keep or decline Part B, but cant decline Part A unless they withdraw their original application for Social Security and pay back all Social Security cash benefits.
Employer Or Military Retiree Coverage
If you or your spouse has an Employer Group Health Plan as retiree health coverage from an employer or the military , you may not need additional insurance. Review the EGHPs costs and benefits and contact your employer benefits representative or SHIIP to learn how your coverage works with Medicare.
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Medicare Faqs And Information To Consider
If you are already receiving Social Security benefits, Railroad Retirement benefits, or Federal Retiree benefits, your enrollment in Medicare is automatic. Your Medicare card should arrive in the mail shortly before your 65th birthday. Check the card when you receive it to verify that you are entitled to both Medicare Parts A and B.
Initial Enrollment Period:
If you are not eligible for Automatic Enrollment, contact the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 or enroll online at www.socialsecurity.gov, or visit the nearest Social Security office to enroll in Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. You have a seven month window in which to enroll in Medicare without incurring a penalty. If youre not automatically enrolled in premium-free Part A, you can sign up for it once your Initial Enrollment Period starts. Your Part A coverage will start six months back from the date you apply for Medicare, but no earlier than the first month you were eligible for Medicare. However, you can only sign up for Part B during the times listed below.
General Enrollment Period:
- General Enrollment Period for Medicare Parts A & B
If you have coverage through a current employer, you are not required to enroll in Medicare Part A and B. Below are some things to keep in mind about each part of Medicare.
Comparison With Private Insurance
Medicare differs from private insurance available to working Americans in that it is a social insurance program. Social insurance programs provide statutorily guaranteed benefits to the entire population . These benefits are financed in significant part through universal taxes. In effect, Medicare is a mechanism by which the state takes a portion of its citizens’ resources to provide health and financial security to its citizens in old age or in case of disability, helping them cope with the enormous, unpredictable cost of health care. In its universality, Medicare differs substantially from private insurers, which must decide whom to cover and what benefits to offer to manage their risk pools and ensure that their costs do not exceed premiums.
Medicare also has an important role in driving changes in the entire health care system. Because Medicare pays for a huge share of health care in every region of the country, it has a great deal of power to set delivery and payment policies. For example, Medicare promoted the adaptation of prospective payments based on DRG’s, which prevents unscrupulous providers from setting their own exorbitant prices. Meanwhile, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has given Medicare the mandate to promote cost-containment throughout the health care system, for example, by promoting the creation of accountable care organizations or by replacing fee-for-service payments with bundled payments.
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Proposals For Reforming Medicare
As legislators continue to seek new ways to control the cost of Medicare, a number of new proposals to reform Medicare have been introduced in recent years.
Since the mid-1990s, there have been a number of proposals to change Medicare from a publicly run social insurance program with a defined benefit, for which there is no limit to the government’s expenses, into a publicly run health plan program that offers “premium support” for enrollees. The basic concept behind the proposals is that the government would make a defined contribution, that is a premium support, to the health plan of a Medicare enrollee’s choice. Sponsors would compete to provide Medicare benefits and this competition would set the level of fixed contribution. Additionally, enrollees would be able to purchase greater coverage by paying more in addition to the fixed government contribution. Conversely, enrollees could choose lower cost coverage and keep the difference between their coverage costs and the fixed government contribution. The goal of premium Medicare plans is for greater cost-effectiveness if such a proposal worked as planned, the financial incentive would be greatest for Medicare plans that offer the best care at the lowest cost.
Currently, public Part C Medicare health plans avoid this issue with an indexed risk formula that provides lower per capita payments to sponsors for relatively healthy plan members and higher per capita payments for less healthy members.
When Is My Medicare Initial Enrollment Period
For most people, enrolling in Medicare Part A is automatic. However, there are several instances where you may have to manually enroll in Medicare Part A and/or Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period , the seven-month period that begins three months before you turn 65, includes the month of your 65th birthday, and ends three months later.
Some situations where you would enroll in Medicare during your initial enrollment include:
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Am I Eligible For Medicare
To receive Medicare, you must be eligible for Social Security benefits.
Part A Eligibility
Most people age 65 or older are eligible for Medicare Part A based on their own employment, or their spouse’s employment. Most people have enough Social Security credits to get Part A for free. Others must purchase it.
You are eligible for Medicare Part A if you meet one of the following criteria:
- You are eligible for Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits, even if you do not receive those benefits.
- You are entitled to Social Security benefits based on a spouse’s, or divorced spouse’s work record, and that spouse is at least 62 years old.
- You have worked long enough in a federal, state, or local government job to be eligible for Medicare.
If you are under 65, you are eligible for Medicare Part A if you meet one of the following criteria:
- You have received Social Security disability benefits for 24 months.
- You have received Social Security benefits as a disabled widow, divorced disabled widow, or a disabled child for 24 months.
- You have worked long enough in a federal, state, or local government job and meet the requirements of the Social Security disability program.
- You have permanent kidney failure that requires maintenance dialysis or a kidney transplant.
- You are diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Part B Eligibility
If you are eligible for Part A, you can enroll in Medicare Part B which has a monthly premium.
Will I Need To Prove My Age?
Do You Need To Sign Up For Medicare
Everyone is eligible for Medicare at age 65. You can also get Medicare earlier if you have a long-term disability, end-stage renal disease or ALS .
If youre already receiving Social Security either disability or retirement benefits when you turn 65, you dont need to sign up for Medicare Part A or Part B . Youll be automatically enrolled.
You are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B if:
You receive Social Security benefits or Railroad Retirement Board benefits for at least four months before turning 65.
You are younger than 65 and have received Social Security disability benefits for at least 24 months.
Your coverage will begin the first day of the month you turn 65.
And thats it! No further action is required on your part.
However, even if youre automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B , there may still be other coverage you should sign up for, such as a Part D prescription drug plan or a Medigap supplement insurance policy.
Well cover how to sign up for those later.
Need a refresher on Medicare? Check out these seven frequently asked questions on how Medicare works.
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C: Medicare Advantage Plans
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With the passage of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Medicare beneficiaries were formally given the option to receive their Original Medicare benefits through capitated health insurance Part C health plans, instead of through the Original fee for service Medicare payment system. Many had previously had that option via a series of demonstration projects that dated back to the early 1970s. These Part C plans were initially known in 1997 as “Medicare+Choice”. As of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, most “Medicare+Choice” plans were re-branded as “Medicare Advantage” plans . Other plan types, such as 1876 Cost plans, are also available in limited areas of the country. Cost plans are not Medicare Advantage plans and are not capitated. Instead, beneficiaries keep their Original Medicare benefits while their sponsor administers their Part A and Part B benefits. The sponsor of a Part C plan could be an integrated health delivery system or spin-out, a union, a religious organization, an insurance company or other type of organization.
The intention of both the 1997 and 2003 law was that the differences between fee for service and capitated fee beneficiaries would reach parity over time and that has mostly been achieved, given that it can never literally be achieved without a major reform of Medicare because the Part C capitated fee in one year is based on the fee for service spending the previous year.
If You Are Under Age 65 And Disabled:
If you are under age 65 and disabled, and have been entitled to disability benefits under Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board for 24 months, you will be automatically entitled to Medicare Part A and Part B beginning the 25th month of disability benefit entitlement. You will not need to do anything to enroll in Medicare. Your Medicare card will be mailed to you about 3 months before your Medicare entitlement date. , you get your Medicare benefits the first month you get disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board.) For more information about enrollment, call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or visit the Social Security web site. See also Social Security’s Medicare FAQs.
For more information, see Medicare.gov
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Should I Sign Up During My Initial Enrollment Period
For most people, the answer is yes. They need to sign up for Medicare during their seven-month initial enrollment period , which starts three months before the month you turn age 65 and ends three months after your birthday month. If your 65th birthday is in June, your IEP begins March 1 and ends Sept. 30.
If your birthday falls on the first day of a month, the whole initial enrollment period moves forward one month. For example, if your birthday is June 1, your IEP begins Feb. 1 and ends Aug. 31.
If you or your spouse is still working and you have health insurance coverage from that active employer, you may be able to wait. But otherwise, you need to sign up for Medicare during your IEP to avoid late enrollment penalties and delayed coverage.
The phrase active employer is key. If you have other insurance that isnt from your own or your spouses current employer, you will still need to sign up for Medicare during your initial enrollment period. You need to sign up during your IEP in all of these circumstances: If you have
- COBRA health coverage that extends the insurance you or your spouse received from an employer while working
- Health insurance that you bought yourself and no employer provided it
- No health insurance
- Retiree benefits from your own or a spouses former employer
- Veterans benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs health system but no insurance from a current employer