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Enrolling in Medicare: a ‘Do It Yourself’ project?

Did you need help enrolling in Medicare?

I was able to enroll on my own with no help.
I needed a lot of help enrolling.
I needed some help to enroll.
I was collecting Social Security benefits and was automatically enrolled.
Poll conducted August 19, 2020 - September 8, 2020
95 participants

Jennifer Chumbley Hogue | September 15, 2020

Reviewed by our health policy panel.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the first in a series of Medicare Surveys. These surveys will “take the pulse” of our audience – assessing our readers’ experiences with Medicare and their attitudes toward the program. The questions and the results are not intended to be scientific.

Is Medicare enrollment a “Do It Yourself” project? For many of this site’s readers, it would seem so.

As a Medicare agent who has been helping consumers with Medicare Part A and Part B enrollments for almost 20 years, I was a bit surprised – but very pleased – to see the percentage of polled readers who seem to feel confident about their ability to enroll in Medicare on their own.

In our first Medicare Survey, we asked our readers whether they needed help enrolling in Medicare – and an impressive 39% of our readers who weighed in said they were able to enroll on their own with no help.

Here’s a recap of the results:

  • 39% responded “I was able to enroll on my own with no help.”
  • 28% responded “I needed a lot of help enrolling.”
  • 18% responded “I needed some help to enroll.”
  • 16% responded “I was collecting Social Security benefits and was automatically enrolled.”

Internet-savvy seniors

What does that top result tell me? (And what about the 18 percent who just needed “some help to enroll?”) To me, it’s encouraging. As an agent, I’m seeing more and more clients who are turning 65 and who increasingly have internet experience or are tech savvy enough to deal with the online enrollment.

And the great news is that there’s more information available than ever to help seniors prepare to “go it alone.” A great place to start? What information do I need to enroll in Medicare online?

This apparent success is impressive to me, considering that there are some major stumbling blocks out there right now – including a poorly designed interface with iPads / smart tablets. I’m hoping that CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) makes improving the interface  a priority in 2021.

Enrollees who need help

What of the roughly 46% of respondents who said they needed “some help” or “a lot of help?” I’d expect that many of them had problems creating their account at Social Security (a requirement for online Medicare enrollment). If you try to enroll on your own, I strongly suggest you give them a call right away in case there’s some sort of data mismatch error. You should find the people at the Social Security Administration extremely helpful.

Confusion about when and how to enroll is common. Definitely read this overview of first-time enrollment in Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medigap and Part D.

Automatically enrolled?

What about that last subsection? In my experience, many people are surprised that they are auto-enrolled into Medicare if they are already taking Social Security.  If you are concerned that you’ll be one of those people – and you don’t want Medicare Part B because you have group health benefits – you can notify Social Security, so you aren’t “double-paying” for health insurance.

Suggested reading? Do I need to sign up for Medicare at 65 if I’m still working?

At the same time, if you are considering a delay in enrollment, you definitely need to understand the potential for penalties.

Read Why you can’t afford to get medicare Part B wrong

One other point to keep in mind: If you’re going to be auto-enrolled in Medicare (because you’re turning 65 and are already receiving Social Security benefits), and you’ve been making contributions to a health savings account (HSA), you’ll need to stop making those contributions, because you’re no longer eligible to contribute to a Health Savings Account once you’re enrolled in any part of Medicare. Even if you are not taking Social Security, you will be automatically enrolled into Part A, which means you can no longer contribute to a Health Savings Account.

Suggested reading

Do you need more help enrolling? Here are a few articles that will help you get started:

Have more questions or comments about enrollment? Please leave them in the comment section below and we’ll answer them promptly.

Jenny Chumbley Hogue brings over 30 years of health industry experience to her role as a contributor for The owner of her own health insurance agency – KG Health Insurance – Jennifer specializes in Medicare, small-group insurance and the individual health insurance market. She takes great pride in not only understanding the details and laws regarding Medicare and individual-market health Insurance, but more importantly, being able to explain to regulations to consumers in a way that is easy to understand.

Disclaimer: Our Medicare Surveys series is a tool that allows us to "take the temperature" of our audience. The questions and the results are not intended to be scientific. Rather, we hope to use the information to get a sense of our reader's experiences with the Medicare program and their attitudes toward the program and its coverage.

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