7 Common Questions (and Answers!) about Medicare

Over 10,000 people will enroll in Medicare every day over the next 10 years.

Are you one of them? Or do you know someone who is nearing this rite of passage?

Luckily, it’s not as complicated as it may seem. Explore 7 common questions (and answers) about how to get started with Medicare.

1. How do I enroll in Medicare? Is it automatic when I turn 65?

To enroll in Medicare, most people need to contact Social Security directly. Do this before your 65th birthday to avoid a lapse in health coverage.

Some people ó including early retirees receiving Social Security and those with Social Security disability or Railroad Retirement benefits ― are automatically enrolled in Medicare when they become eligible.

You can enroll online, at your local Social Security office, or by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

2. When do I have to enroll?

You have a 7-month window around your 65th birthday to enroll. This is called the Initial Enrollment Period.

After that, you can still enroll in Medicare, but you may have to wait for a designated special/general enrollment period to do so. Learn more about when to join.

3. What if Iím still working and have insurance? Do I need to enroll at age 65?

If you are working past age 65 and have insurance from your job (or your spouse is working and you get health coverage that way), you should contact your plan and review how your coverage will change before deciding whether you need to enroll in Medicare now.

The National Council on Aging offers a free website My Medicare Matters with some helpful tips for what to consider if you have other health insurance besides Medicare.

4. Does Medicare cover ____________?

Medicare covers a wide range of medically necessary screenings, supplies and procedures. Some are free, including many preventive services.

The Medicare & You handbook, which Medicare sends out every year to beneficiaries, provides a summary of many covered services.

For more specific coverage details, Medicare.gov contains a helpful online search tool where you can find whether a test, item or service is covered.

You also may speak with your doctor, or you can contact Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to verify coverage based on your personal situation.

5. Iím going on a cruise/overseas trip. Will Medicare cover me if I need emergency care when Iím away?

Medicare covers health care for people when they are physically located within the 50 U.S. states, District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

In rare cases, Medicare Part A may cover medically necessary services in a foreign country when a foreign hospital is closer than a U.S. facility. Learn more about these exceptions.

In some cases, Medicare Part B may cover medically necessary health care while on board a cruise ship within the territorial waters adjoining the U.S. Generally, Medicare won’t pay for services you get when a ship is more than six hours away from a U.S. port.

If you have a supplemental insurance policy, you should check to see if it covers medical care abroad. Otherwise, it is recommended to purchase travel insurance before your trip, which can help to offset the costs of overseas emergency care if itís needed.

6. How do I pay for my Medicare?

If you are receiving Social Security benefits at the time you enroll in Medicare, your Part B premium will be deducted automatically from your monthly check.

If you have not begun to receive Social Security yet, you will receive a quarterly bill for your premium, which you can pay several different ways.

If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription drug plan, typically you will pay the plan directly for your premium.

7. How can I find out how much Iíve paid for Medicare services this year?

Medicare offers a free, confidential online service for people to access information about their benefits and services, including how much theyíve paid for services. See how to create an account.

You also can contact Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) with any questions about enrollment, payments, claims, coverage issues and more.

Have more questions about Medicare?

Check the free website, My Medicare Matters, to find more information on Medicare enrollment, preventive services and costs.

Or contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which is federally funded to offer free, objective assistance about Medicare.

You also can follow this path to Medicare to plot out the steps you need to take.

Photo Credit: iStock


Vivianne Mosca-Clark

We all need good health to live with dignity.
To me...anyone who doesn't care about others that need help with health issues, are selfish. That goes for the congress members that still got their raises and all the good health plans they have, while they cut out as much as they can from our health needs.

Dale O.

Interesting, Jenevieve P regarding alternative health.

True Linda M. While our winters are a pain at times (except for some in the temperate climes of 'Lotusland' I am relieved to have universal health care. No matter how many times republicans and teabaggers wail about the 'horrors' of the Canadian (or other) universal health care system I am relieved that we have it.

Alice Birmingham
Alice Birmingham4 years ago


Jenevieve P.
Past Member 4 years ago

Debbie,.. I too feel very blessed. My new coverage includes eye exams, hearing and DENTAL! What concerns me is the rumor that those with Medicaid are going to have to pay their deductables as of January 2014. I'm not sure what that means yet.
I don't take alot of meds, but medicare has stopped paying for infusion therapy for Fibromyalgia and they won't pay for hormone therapy cream but they will pay for hormone pills. Of course, which have terrible side affects. NATURALLY! leave it to the government to allow a medication that will cause breast cancer= MORE MONEY for drug companies until you die!!
With my new meds, I am looking at about $5.30 every three months. If I was able to get my three therapy treatments that I desperately need, I would be paying an extra $410 per month.
It makes no sense that the government allow or condone complete alternative health care, nor will insurance plans pay for logical wellbeing healthcare. It's all about the upper crust who can afford the out of pocket expenses, verses those who can't. You stay in pain longer, but you are also on the preplan for early departure from life. Medicare is not a product for overall wellbeingness and health.

Debbie Wood
Debbie Wood4 years ago

I am blessed to have both medicare and Tricare for Life. I end up not having to pay anything, except a small co-pay for medicines. I use Tricare's mail order pharmacy for my regular medications and get anything else from my local pharmacy. By doing so, I went from $75 a month for meds to about $18 a month. Even an eye exam is included. I have to pay for my glasses, though. I wish the new health care law would have been set up like these programs, or a single payer program. It would have been much better and cheaper.

Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se4 years ago


Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Kay M.
.4 years ago

Thank you for the article and all the comments and discussions from the care 2 members.

Ken W.
Ken W4 years ago

Beware the GOP !!!