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 is retired from the Air Force, so we currently have Tricare Select. As I understand it, all I need to do is sign up for Medicare Part B, which I think I can do now. Can I do this online or do I have to go somewhere to register? And how do I find the costs? We are also currently enrolled in and paying for FEDVIP for our dental and vision services. Is vision treated under Medicare? All our adult lives we have only used air bases and now we have to pay attention and we don’t know where to start. Any guidance is appreciated. Signed: retired military woman
Dear Military Wife: First of all, I would like to thank your husband for his military service. I would be happy to help you with your questions.
With a few exceptions (mainly those on active duty and military reservists), TriCare requires that you enroll in Medicare Part B as soon as you become eligible (age 65) in order to maintain your Tricare coverage. If you’re already collecting Social Security, you’re automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B at age 65 and you don’t need to enroll separately. If not, you can easily enroll online at this link: www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare/. Here’s an explanation of how Medicare works, and you can scroll down to the “Apply for Medicare Only” tab to begin your application. You must first have your personal online “my social security” account set up 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 turn 65 in 3 months, you can enroll in Medicare now and your coverage will begin the month you turn 65. Your Medicare coverage begins on the first of the month you turn 65, even if your birthday isn’t 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 “components” of Medicare. Medicare Part A is inpatient hospitalization coverage and is free for anyone who also qualifies for Social Security (you don’t need to collect SS, just qualify for it). Medicare Part B is coverage for outpatient medical services (e.g. 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 have Social Security You arrange when you enroll in Medicare to pay those premiums separately, usually quarterly. If you already collect Social Security, the Medicare Part B premium is deducted from your monthly SS payment. When your Medicare coverage begins, Medicare becomes the primary payer of your health care costs and TriCare becomes the secondary payer.
Medicare Part C is a “benefit” plan obtained through a private insurer and is used in place of Part A and Part B. Medicare also has Part D that is for prescription drug coverage, which you probably don’t have. you will need because TriCare probably covers all coverages. prescription drug needs you may have.
Medicare Part B does not provide routine dental services and only provides very limited vision services (glaucoma screenings, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration screening and treatment), but routine eye screenings, contact lenses, 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 options for private dental and facial coverage.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial guidance. It reflects the views and interpretations of AMAC Foundation staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its personnel are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other government agency. To submit an inquiry, please visit our website (amacfoundation.org/programs/social-security-advisory) or email us at [email protected]