Q & A

Ask Rusty – Military Wife Turning 65 Seeks Information About Medicare

Dear Rusty: My husband is 63 and I will be 65 in a few months. He’s retired from the Air Force, so we currently have Tricare Select. As I understand it, I only need to sign up for Medicare Part B, which I think I can do now. Can I do this online, or do I need to go somewhere to enroll? And how do I find the cost? We also currently are enrolled in and pay for FEDVIP for our dental and vision. Is vision handled under Medicare? All our adult life we’ve just used Air Force bases and now we have to pay attention and we don’t know where to start. Any guidance is appreciated. Signed: Retired Military Wife

Dear Military Wife: First, please extend my gratitude to your husband for his military service.  I’m happy to assist you with your questions. 

With few exceptions (mainly 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 retain your Tricare coverage. If you’re already collecting Social Security, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B at age 65 and won’t need to do a separate enrollment. If not, enrolling can be easily done online by going to this link: www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare/. Here you’ll 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 need to first have your personal “my Social Security” online account set up to apply online for Medicare, which is easy to do at www.ssa.gov/myaccount. You should enroll in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) which starts 3 months before the month you turn 65 and ends three months after the month you turn 65. So, if you are within 3 months of age 65 you can enroll in Medicare now and your coverage will start in the month you turn 65. Your Medicare coverage will start on the first of the month you turn 65, even if your birthday isn’t until later in the month. If you have any trouble enrolling in Medicare online, you can call Social Security at 1.800.772.1213 to enroll in Medicare. 

It’s important to understand Medicare’s various “parts.” Medicare Part A is coverage for inpatient hospitalization services and is free for anyone who is also eligible for Social Security (you don’t need to be collecting SS, only eligible to). 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’re on Social Security, you’ll make arrangements when you enroll in Medicare to pay those premiums separately, usually quarterly. If you’re already collecting Social Security, the Medicare Part B premium will be deducted from your monthly SS payment. When your Medicare coverage starts, Medicare will become the primary payor of your healthcare expenses and TriCare will become secondary payor.

Medicare Part C is an “Advantage” plan obtained through a private insurer and used instead of Part A and Part B. Medicare also has a Part D which is for prescription drug coverage, and which you probably won’t need because TriCare likely covers any prescription drug 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 screening for and treatment of macular degeneration), but routine eye screenings, contacts, eyeglasses, and frames, etc., are not covered. TriCare’s vision coverage is also very limited, so if your current FEDVIP is not adequate for your needs, you may wish to explore your options for private dental and vision coverage. 

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

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