Social Security Matters – Military wife turning 65 seeks information on health insurance

By Rusty Gloor, National Social Security Advisor at the AMAC Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Association of Mature American Citizens

Dear Rusty: My husband is 63 and I will be 65 in a few months. He retired from the Air Force, so we currently have Tricare Select. If I understand correctly, I just have to enroll in Medicare Part B, which I think I can do now. Can I do it online or do I have to go somewhere to register? And how can I find the cost? We are also currently registered and paying for FEDVIP for our dental and vision care. Is vision covered by Medicare? All our adult lives we’ve used Air Force bases and now we have to be careful and we don’t know where to start. Any guidance is appreciated. Signed: Retired Military Wife

Dear Military Wife: First of all, please express my gratitude to your husband for his military service. I am happy to help you with your questions.

With a few exceptions (primarily those on active duty and military reservists), TriCare requires that you enroll in Medicare Part B as soon as you are eligible (age 65) to maintain your Tricare coverage. If you are already collecting Social Security, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B at age 65 and you will not need to register separately. Otherwise, registration can be done easily online by going to this link: www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare/. Here you will see an explanation of how Medicare works, and you can scroll down to the “Apply for Medicare Only” tab to start your application. You will first need to create your personal “my Social Security” online account to apply for Medicare online, which is easy to do at www.ssa.gov/myaccount. You must enroll in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) which begins 3 months before the month you turn 65 and ends three months after the month you turn 65. So if you’re less than 3 months before age 65, you can enroll in Medicare now and your coverage will begin the month you turn 65. Your Medicare coverage will begin on the first of the month you turn 65, even if your birthday is not until later in the month. If you are having trouble enrolling in Medicare online, you can call Social Security at 1.800.772.1213 to enroll in Medicare.

It is important to understand the different “parts” of Medicare. Medicare Part A is coverage for inpatient services and is free for anyone who is also eligible for Social Security (you don’t need to collect SS, only eligible). Medicare Part B is coverage for outpatient medical services (eg doctors, tests, etc.) and there is a monthly premium associated with Part B. The 2022 Part B premium is $170.10 per month and, Unless you are on Social Security, You will make arrangements when you enroll in Medicare to pay these premiums separately, usually quarterly. If you already collect Social Security, the Medicare Part B premium will be deducted from your monthly SS payment. When your Medicare coverage begins, Medicare will become the primary payer of your healthcare expenses and TriCare will become the secondary payer.

Medicare Part C is an “Advantage” plan obtained from a private insurer and used in place of Parts A and B. Medicare also has Part D which is for prescription drug coverage, which you probably won’t have. need because TriCare probably covers any prescription medication needs you may have.

Medicare Part B does not provide routine dental services and only provides very limited vision services (screenings for glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration screening and treatment), but routine eye screenings, contacts, glasses and frames, etc., are not covered. TriCare’s vision coverage is also very limited, so if your current FEDVIP isn’t right for your needs, you may want to explore your private dental and vision coverage options.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not represent legal or financial advice. It presents the opinions and interpretations of AMAC Foundation staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). The NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other government entity. To submit a question, visit our website (amacfoundation.org/programs/social-security-advisory) or write to us at [email protected]

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