If you didn't sign up for Medicare Part B medical insurance when you first became eligible for Medicare, you now have an opportunity to apply -- but you only have a little over a month to get signed up. The deadline for applying during the general enrollment period is March 31. When you apply for Part B by the end of March, your coverage will be effective July 1. If you miss the deadline, you may have to wait until the beginning of 2013 to apply.
Medicare Part B covers some medical expenses not covered by Medicare Part A (hospital insurance), such as doctors' fees, outpatient hospital visits, and other medical supplies and services.
When you first become eligible for hospital insurance (Part A), you have a seven-month period in which to sign up for medical insurance (Part B). After that, you may have to pay a higher premium -- unless you were covered through your current employer's group health plan or a group health plan based on a spouse's current employment. You are given another opportunity to enroll in Part B during the general enrollment period, from Jan. 1 to March 31 of each year. But each 12-month period that you are eligible for Medicare Part B and do not sign up, the amount of your monthly premium increases by 10 percent.
There are special situations in which you can apply for Medicare Part B outside the general enrollment period. For example, you should contact Social Security about applying for Medicare if:
"¢ you are a disabled widow or widower between age 50 and age 65, but have not applied for disability benefits because you are already getting another kind of Social Security benefit;
"¢ you worked long enough in a government job where Medicare taxes were paid and you meet the requirements of the Social Security disability program and became disabled before age 65;
"¢ you, your spouse, or your dependent child has permanent kidney failure;
"¢ you had Medicare medical insurance (Part B) in the past but dropped the coverage; or
"¢you turned down Medicare medical insurance (Part B) when you became entitled to hospital insurance (Part A).
You can learn more about Medicare by reading our electronic booklet, Medicare at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10043.html. Or visit the Medicare website at www.medicare.gov. You may also call Medicare at (800) MEDICARE (800-633-4227; TTY 877-486-2048).
If you are interested in applying for Medicare Part B during the general enrollment period, give us a call locally at (877) 628-6581, or call our national toll free number, (800) 772-1213, to request an application for enrollment. You can also stop by our office and complete the form.
And remember, if you are interesting in filing for benefits or if you have any questions regarding Social Security, visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
tracey L. weaver is district manager of the Oneonta office of the Social Security Administration. 'Senior Scene' columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.